James MacDonald is Fired: A Day to Mourn, to Pray, & to Plead for Revival

By Julie Roys
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I woke up this morning to multiple texts informing me that James MacDonald had been fired from Harvest Bible Chapel. My first emotion was relief. Finally, some 10 months after a former Harvest pastor contacted me and urged me to investigate the mega-church pastor, MacDonald was out.

No longer can he prey on the sheep he was supposed to protect.  No longer can he use church members’ money to line his pockets. No longer can he rage on innocent employees and get people to believe the lies he’s spread about those who challenge him.

Scripture encourages believers to rejoice in the judgment of God (Psalm 96:13; Rev. 18:20) and this morning I felt a bit of that. But it was quickly tempered.

Sadly, thousands today are reeling in pain. A church is in shambles. Evangelicals are publicly embarrassed—again. And more men remain in positions of influence who have done reprehensible things.

No, today is not a day to rejoice; it is a day to pause and reflect. A day to mourn. A day to pray. A day to sit before God and plead for revival—both personally and collectively as His Body.

It is a solemn day. And in that spirit, I offer the following thoughts and suggestions that have been ruminating in me for some time:

  • Continue the Cleansing at Harvest

While I am heartened that the elders finally removed MacDonald, he should have been fired five years ago. That’s when eight former elders sent a letter to the sitting elder board, warning them that MacDonald was disqualified for office. Yet instead of investigating MacDonald, the board excommunicated some of the messengers. And shockingly, two of the elders who participated in a video slandering those men, Steve Huston and Paul Inserra, remain on the board. Huston even chairs the Executive Committee of the Elders.

In addition, Jeff Smith, the chairman of the finance committee who’s clearly failed to oversee properly the finances of the church, remains an elder.  So do Fred Ananias and Scott Stonebreaker, who wrongfully fired Pastor John Secrest from HBC Naples. And let’s not forget that the entire elder board recently pledged their unconditional support for MacDonald, showing a grievous misunderstanding of what it means to be an elder. All of them should step down and a transition team should be put in place.

Plus, the members of Harvest’s dwindling executive leadership team, including MacDonald’s two sons, should resign. These men worked very closely with MacDonald, and certainly knew of his reprehensible behavior. At best, they did nothing.  At worst, they protected him and punished his critics. If Harvest is going to have any hope of reforming its culture, it needs a clean slate and fresh leadership. These men need to go.

  • Fix the “Evangelical Machine”

The men surrounding MacDonald at Harvest weren’t the only ones who insulated him from accountability. As I wrote last year after blowing the whistle on the Moody Bible Institute, there’s an entire evangelical infrastructure, or “celebrity machine,” that shamefully protects the powerful. Sadly, evangelical leaders have known about MacDonald’s miserable behavior for years. I’ve heard them repeatedly talk about it behind closed doors.

MacDonald should have been removed from radio in 2012 when his gambling first came to light. I remember talking to leaders at Moody about it and being assured that MacDonald was repentant, only to find out later that he had been gambling with Moody’s chairman of the board.

But more recently, I heard a recording that’s perhaps the most disgusting example of this collusion and protection that I’ve ever witnessed. I am hoping and praying that Mancow will publish the full 50 minutes of audio that he has. As I mentioned, I have heard that full audio. And it includes two separate conversations with men in powerful positions within evangelicalism. They laugh along with MacDonald’s vile comments and become accomplices in his smear campaign against me and others. This kind of behavior is reprehensible and inexcusable and needs to end now among evangelical leaders. The good, old boy network is not good. It’s sinful.

  • Renew a Commitment to Holiness

As I said recently in my  interview with Drew Marshall, we serve a God who is both loving and holy. Yes, love compelled Christ to die on the cross. He did not wish any to perish. But His holiness compelled Him too. Had his holiness not required that sin be punished, Jesus would not have had to die.

Sometimes I think we forget this truth in the church. We forget that God has standards—and that breaking those standards has serious consequences. So many times over the past few months, I’ve heard Christians excuse inexcusable behavior by saying that nobody’s perfect. But as I’ve said numerous times, 1 Timothy 5:20 is clear: elders who continue sinning must be publicly exposed.

That is not harsh. That is not cruel. It is Christ protecting His Bride and His own reputation. God hates sin. And those in leadership should possess a healthy fear of God’s judgment. Likewise, those who follow should expect and require holiness in their leaders.

  • Support Truth-Telling

In a statement yesterday, Christianity Today urged Harvest to conduct an independent investigation, which the magazine said would “bring out the full truth” in a “more healthy atmosphere than what we’re witnessing now on social media and talk radio.” In addition, throughout the Harvest debacle, Harvest has repeatedly complained about “attack bloggers” and “gossip.”

Though I concede that not everything blogged, tweeted, or broadcast has been edifying, the truth is that nothing would have happened without passionate people employing these mediums. I have repeatedly told the guys at The Elephant’s Debt that I stood on their shoulders. I never could have done the reporting I did had Scott Bryant and Ryan Mahoney not doggedly researched and published for more than six years. Similarly, by the elders’ own admission, had Mancow not broadcast the shocking audio clips yesterday, MacDonald’s removal could have dragged on much longer. Given the elders’ track record, I’m not convinced it would have happened at all.

Christians are sometimes very uncomfortable with publicly reporting negative news, even when it’s true and necessary. I understand that. And I’m a big proponent of reporting responsibly—naming sources, double-checking facts, seeking comment from both sides. But I think we need to admit that when a system is broken, as it is at Harvest, there often is no other recourse. And instead of denigrating those who speak, we need to support them. Public truth-tellers are critical to reform. As Ephesians 5:11 says, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” I am grateful to every source who went on the record concerning MacDonald, and every truth-teller who posted or broadcast. Thank you.

  • Comfort the Hurting

Lastly, we need to comfort the hurting. I know many people who attend Harvest or who have been impacted by MacDonald’s preaching are crushed today. As one person whom MacDonald led to the Lord recently remarked to me, “It’s like finding out your wife is a serial killer.” The disillusionment, betrayal, and loss can be excruciating. This is a very vulnerable time for a lot of people and I am sure God weeps for every wounded soul.

I am so sorry. I am sure words fail to soothe the pain you’re feeling right now. And I understand if you’re angry at me. Perhaps you wish this had never come to light.

I want to encourage you, though, to fix your eyes on Jesus. I’ll never forget a time when I was serving in a youth ministry and we discovered that a popular youth pastor at a neighboring church had abused several girls under his care. It was awful. We knew him. We knew his wife. We knew the kids in his ministry. And we grieved—and we prayed that God would not allow this betrayal of trust to drive kids away from Jesus. Surprisingly, it had the opposite effect.

At a meeting of all the youth who had been in this man’s ministry, a teenager stood up and declared, “We never worshipped or followed Jeff. We follow Jesus.” And that became the rallying cry for all those kids in that ministry. And God used that awful betrayal of trust to purify that church and lead them to a more focused devotion to Jesus than they had ever had before.

That’s my prayer for Harvest today. I know many of you at the church passionately love Jesus. You’re devoted to His Word. You sacrifice for His mission. And God can rebuild something beautiful from these ashes. That is His will. And He will do it if we remain focused and submitted to Him.  

 

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135 thoughts on “James MacDonald is Fired: A Day to Mourn, to Pray, & to Plead for Revival”

  1. Still don’t understand the charges against James other than misuse of money. If that’s the case, then investigations should be done on ALL mega church preachers, I think you would find most All of them guilty. And try to challenge them and see if you are not met with resistance, Many are obsessed with power and pride. All in the agenda of “reaching souls”. What is truly sad is that many prey on the elderly, poor and minority. Judgement day is coming, and the true sheep will be separated from the wolves.

    1. Oh I do not know…perhaps the audio clip where “Harvest Bible Chapel Pastor James MacDonald discussing putting child porn on the computer of Christianity Today CEO Harold Smith.” was of concern.

      1. Something to think about….

        What James MacDonald wanted to do, is a Federal Crime (see 18 US Code 2252, 2252A), each count 5 to 20 years in Federal Prison, as well as being required to be registered as a sex offender. If he works in concert with 3 or more persons to set this up with 3 or more separate felony violations involving more than 1 victim, it constitutes a child sexual exploitation enterprise. Prison term 20 to life.

        Yet people still want to defend him, when he should be doing the perp walk…

    2. Uhhh, Keith, with regard to James… there’s just a tad bit more going on than the misuse of money. Just a bit more. A smidge. A sliver.

      His lack of integrity and abusive nature.

    3. Ohhhhhh, Keith Castle…..the mindset displayed by you is exactly how JM was enabled to commit his many crimes and sins for so longgggggggg…

      If he were part of a major corporation, instead if a non-governed church, he would have been charged long ago.

    4. 1 Tim 6:9 “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” This verse describes where i believe the departure from following the Lord’s way began many years ago for James and likely many others in leadership who desired great wealth. May this chapter be a sobering warning for us all to love our God above all earthly things, lest i or any of us be plunged into ruin and destruction. For those who are angry and critical of Julie Roys and TED authors for “destroying Pastor James and HBC, read 1 Tim 5:20. They and Mancow are obeying God’s command.

  2. Just wanted you to know how much we appreciate all you did to destroy a pastor and his family. Without your efforts he might still be pastor today. Hopefully they will never darken the doors of another pastorate again. Also think of all you did to wreak havoc in the lives of those who were saved under his ministry. Most of them will probably leave the church now that you have shared all this truth with them. We admire your commitment to the truth no matter what it does to other people or the Lord’s church. Be sure to keep us updated on all that you are currently doing.

    1. Mike Davidson …this is another example of the few in these Comments who are shooting the messengers.

      Susan Vonder Heide is right—-if one is not spiritually mature, JM’s inevitable fall would potentially shake their faith. But we are to worship The One True God, not someone who sets himself up as a god with a lowercase g.

    2. Mike the pastor destroyed himself…I loved Pastor James too but what’s right has to be done no matter the cost. If people fall from their walk because of this then they never really knew the Lord in the first place. This is not about worshipping a man or a church this is about believers who require devotion to Our Lord and Savior no matter what happens around them. I am a member of Harvest struggling on what to do next but in no way will this affect the love for my Lord. Lies and deception has consequences which sadly will take out all who had knowledge and never stepped forward. The Bible says your sin will find you out and God in His mercy could judge this much harsher than it currently stands. Let’s just pray for the repentance and restoration of souls and examine ourselves so we may walk in holiness. God create in all of us a clean and pure heart.

    3. Mike, JSM true calling is not a pastor but a politician. The City of Chicago and the state of Illinois is in tremendous debt and the future generations are burden w/ this load. JSM has provided a great legacy w/ his gift of the $42 million debt left for his congregation. He has provided and protected himself on a 4 acre property in a 8500 square foot McMansion w/ 10 car garage while there are church staff layoffs w/ cuts in ministries and programs. Someone should start a GoFundMe page to erect his statue at each of the eight HBC campuses. The head is to be pure gold, the chest and arms in silver, its belly and thighs bronze, legs of iron and feet part iron and part clay. It should be both indestructible and uncrushable w/ XLT providing additional funding as required.

    4. Mike, I don’t your reply is biblical. There are many references in the Bible for our accountability to call out sin. Sin should be exposed and if repented of, the guilty is to be received back. James could possibly do more good by confessing and repenting than he has ever done before. King David’s sin has been exposed for all to see. When Nathan showed him his guilt, he immediately confessed and repented. Had he not, he no doubt would’ve lost fellowship with God as did King Saul which would’ve not only hurt him but also the nation of Israel. Leaders who are sinning hurt their whole congregation, not just themselves.

    5. It’s interesting how your own ironic statement betrays your false sense of justice . You sarcastically say “We admire your commitment to the truth no matter what it does to other people or the Lord’s church.” This is exactly as it should be. The Lord’s church does not stand on lies and must always hold its integrity in transparency. The church does not stand on any individual. Indeed, many times as in this case it stands despite an individual. You may not like that people got hurt, but remember that this hurt was not brought on by those who exposed the sin, but by those who committed the sin. Furthermore the sin was allowed to fester and spread because of people who preferred cover or ignore the sin… People like you.

  3. Julie I do have a question, if your work was done strictly based on your desire to see the truth brought to light, and to see God’s people at Harvest free from an unqualified leader, was all of your investigative reporting free or were you paid for it?

    1. Why ask that Brian…don’t we all get paid for our careers? Totally irrelevant and if she was paid (which I am sure came in some of this exposure) I say Julie you rock and keep turning over these stones to continue cleansing the body of Christ.

    2. Don’t muzzle the ox Brian. The Bible says those who do God’s work are worthy of their fair wages as i am sure Ms. Roys receives a fair wage for her work.

  4. If someone has made an authentic decision to follow Jesus Christ rather than a decision to follow some pastor, when something negative is exposed about a pastor it will be a sad thing but not something to shake one’s faith if the faith is in Jesus Christ rather than in some pastor. Sadly, many people in many generations have been taught to follow some pastor or some denomination or whatever when the gospel message is to follow Jesus Christ.

  5. Again, I do not understand all that James is accused of and not trying to justify any wrong doing, Everyone is subject to correction and reproof, including pastors/preachers. I cringed to hear them beg for money, wanting people to plant a “seed” of 1000 dollars to gain God’s blessings, like Mike Murdock ministry does, I have personally experience threats by a pastor for leaving the church because I would not pledge my allegience to him, I do not follow any pastor nor do I put them on a pedastle, If they are not preaching the truth, the Word of God, I will not attend,

  6. Agree! 100% Julie, we as Evangelicals are indebted to you. As an Evangelical, I will say it is embarrassing. And we should be embarrassed. This is the type of leader we promote. Further, we forget that power always corrupts, and then we are surprised. When will we ever learn that Jesus is to be the head of his church?

  7. Julie, thank you. How is it that James second in command Rick Donald was preaching after James MacDonald was dismissed. Why are his sons still on the board? I am sure that James will keep all the money he stole, as will the others involved in this. I hate what they have done to the church of Christ. They have no fear of our Holy God. But Christ says even the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
    Thank you for your work for the kingdom

  8. Dear Harvest Bible Church Members: I am deeply saddened to learn about everything that has happened in the last few days. I live out of state and don’t attend Harvest, but I have been watching James MacDonald and reading his books for years. They have helped me get through some of the hardest seasons of my life, and I have been greatly encouraged by the things he has shared. This reminds me of a similar situation in my church about 15 years ago. There was a major shake up when our founder/lead evangelist was asked to leave due to sinful, divisive behavior. Other members of the leadership team were fired or left (mismanagement of funds was also cited in some cases), many church members left, and many who stayed were devastated, hurt, and confused. I would like to encourage all of you that things have gotten better. It took some time, but we have healed We were determined to keep our focus on God and remember Christ’s mission to seek and save the lost. Reflecting on what we experienced, my encouragement to all of you is :

    1. God is sovereign and no matter what, He is always in control. He has a purpose in all of this.
    Isaiah 46:10
    I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’

    2. God heals.
    Psalm 147:3
    He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

    3. By loving one another, you won’t fail.
    1 Corinthians 13:4-8
    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

    I have prayed for you all and believe you will grow through this process. We are all imperfect people serving a perfect God. I pray for healing, humility, love, repentance, and grace for everyone affected by this situation. May God bless and keep you. I’m sending you lots of love.

  9. Brian, Mrs. Roys lost her job and apparently has earned herself a heap of slander and passive aggressive smear comments like yours for her service to Christ in speaking truth to power at Moody and continuing here. Is that what you mean was she paid?

    Apparently, some enjoy the “Koolaid” MacDonald sells. Others of us prefer the purity of the gospel and the truth to toxic spiritual counterfeits.

  10. I think this would have been better handled privately. This is only giving the media & those that don’t love Christ more fuel for their fire. This matter could have been taken to the correct FBI or Police facility. I can’t help but think this was a bit for exposure for the host.

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