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

By Julie Roys

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. The part about the person led to the Lord through MacDonald. This is more a testimony to the power of the Gospel than anything else. Paul rejoiced that the Gospel was preached from whatever motives because he knew the power it has to transform. I wish this person could see that and the lesson learned is to stop putting our trust in the messengers. There is nothing biblical about the current American church model that thrusts so much power onto one charismatic man and elevates him to the role of lead pastor. I’m sorry I see don’t see this position anywhere in Scripture. I don’t have answers but I wish more people could see this. It is a situation ripe for abuse and preys on the fundamental human need to follow a hero. So we follow the wrong hero. I was guilty of this.

  2. I couldn’t agree more with your comments, Julie.

    Anyone on XLT needs to go. They were, at best, silent in the face of horrifying behavior from a pastor.

    Second, the audio you allude to about other leaders who joked around with MacDonald as he made other vile statements needs to be made public.

    Third, we all need to comfort the hurting, and pray for revival. Pointing them away from MacDonald, the HBC Elders, and HBC XLT should be one and the same as pointing them toward Jesus.

  3. I’m not so sure this is all that much a surprise as ever since the elephant room 2 debacle James has long expressed a dissatisfaction with the ministry. He had what may have been thought of as a private conversation with a media guy from Canada, I don’t remember his name, but essentially he expressed a desire to leave the ministry then but couldn’t since Harvest was so big and relied on him so much. I believe, even though he’s left in shame and embarrassment, he’s probably breathing a sigh of relief that it’s finally over and that some of this behavior is/was the resentment manifesting itself. He’s clearly disqualified himself, I get it. But, lets remember Psalm 127:1 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. If you don’t think God didn’t build Harvest with James MacDonald as a partner I’m not sure what to tell you. Things may have gone south but there was a time when this was all very special. We should grieve over its demise.

      1. Actually, according to the NT He does:

        And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.
        Luke 9:1-2

        Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. And *working together with Him,* we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain—
        2 Corinthians 5:20-6:1

        But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen *and save some of them.*
        Romans 11:13-14

        For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, *so that I may by all means save some*. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
        1 Corinthians 9:19-23

        This is what the Scriptures say about true apostles of Christ. There are also false apostles as this sad story of failure in ministry shows. The problem is not that God might have partners through whom He works by the Holy Spirit to do His saving work in the world, but that some might pretend to be partners with God when they are in reality serving not God, but themselves.

  4. Susan Vonder Heide

    Whether it is a huge denomination or a storefront church run by some guy with a lot of self confidence, we need to be ever mindful of the fact that church leaders are not little gods. They are people and sadly, in some cases, they are very sinful people. The focus must always be on God as revealed in Scripture. The Bible recommends an abundance of counselors for a reason.

  5. Thoughts are with the people in the church. It seems likely that the best thing for them would be for all leadership (including all MacDonalds) to step away, open the books, and allow for a time of repentance in the church. Then together they can pray for a day of new leadership and Spirit-filled revival.

  6. Thank you for this recent post Julie, my heart is filled and full of satisfaction in the way you wrote this statement today. Thank you. This even brought me to tears of the humility that you carry and as you point us to Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.

  7. Thank you for your diligence here (TED guys and Mancow too). Thank you also for these words of wisdom on how to move forward.

  8. Amen! Amen! to your articles. Thanks for covering the story. We all are depraved. The sins of the elders insulating MacDonald are far greater than MacDonald.

  9. I agree that we should mourn like Samuel did after he prophesied that God had rejected Saul as being king. God even even asked Samuel how long he was going to mourn over Saul’s failure.

    I do wonder what the motivation was for firing MacDonald. I really doubt it was due to integrity but more due to loss of revenue and members.

  10. I took a long time for Harvest to act regarding Dr. James M. By rights they should have censured him 20 years ago. I am appalled that this has gone on for this long. But he is a hard man to rein in…
    …And I know that there will always be people following him no matter where he goes or does – a loyal group will follow. Sadly, you can fool some of the people all of the time. There will be those who will drink his Cool-aid no matter what.
    A sad blight on evangelicalism…

  11. Thank you Julie! I’m so sorry for all you have endured! You are a champion!! And I pray that these evangelical leaders will too be exposed! I think God wants every tentacle ties to this ripped out like a deveined shrimp!!

  12. Isn’t it a fact that MacDonald’s contract with HBC does not allow anyone to “fire” him???? Is the report
    we have just received from the HBC elders true OR has MacDonald severed his relationship for his
    own purposes?

    1. True. What existing By-laws were executed or re-developed to finally execute his termination, given there apparently was no apparatus to do so previously?

  13. Very well said Julie and exactly what needed to be said. My prayer for Harvest would be the removal of all Elders who prolonged this day. Someone should see if a Character ,Christ like Elder, like Dave Corning would come in on an interim basis with other former Elders who left, to do the forensic audit with integrity and maybe he could convince Dr Joe Stowell to come and preach for a season to heal the church and the hearts of those there. Integrity matters going forward and these two men have it in abundance.

  14. Mark my word, he’ll be back pastoring soon. One or more of the campuses will break off from main campus, support James, and take him back as leader soon.

    1. I don’t believe this is over. He won’t be back at the main campus, but I believe he’ll try to make a comeback, maybe even at one of the other harvest campuses that breaks away. I’m guessing he’ll confess and repent and figure out a way to be a pastor again somewhere.

  15. Like you Julie – I feel this is a bittersweet day. I know this is the right outcome, but my heart truly grieves for all the loss. I truly loved James, even though I had seen his flaws. Some of that because I know my own shortcomings, but also because I was blinded to the truth for a season. I have watched this unfold, and have prayed throughout it all. Your response is well tempered and well reasoned. I will commit to pray for these dear sheep that have lost their shepherd, no matter that he was disqualified. I will also pray for the shepherd and his family, that they come to true repentance, forsake their deception and commit to seeking professional help. This is tremendously painful on every side. My final thought is that every elder and pastor complicit in this hideous mess is removed immediately from leadership. They are ALL disqualified as well, as they not only allowed this to occur, but covered it up, and gas-lighted those who dared to question the powers that be. In the end, I desire only God to be glorified.

  16. Grateful to God for Ryan, Scott, and Julie (and Mancow). You gave a voice to the voiceless, because of love for the church. Praying for all who have been hurt.

  17. Burned in Deerfield

    Apologies for not being able to muster up any tears while MacDonald’s co-conspirators still sit in positions of authority and financial control at Harvest…

    One fast question: Has the FBI raided Harvest, the MacDonald home, or the elders homes, seeking the child porn that MacDonald very convincingly threatened to put on the computers of his detractors?

    When MacDonald is in a jail cell, every single one of the elders are gone, hopefully some of them sharing a cell with MacDonald, then we can talk about mourning.

    Until then, this war rages on, Satan still controls Harvest, and I have no doubt he has some evil plans…

  18. You people are sick and twisted. If you are Christians id rather be an atheist. Wow. Julie are you not one he was suing for defamation of the church?

    1. What/who are you referring? JMac? Elders? People who now want to see justice served? Those who seek healing/ & repentence from the offenders? The pickings on latter list seem fairly healthy & understandable?

    2. Stop drinking’ the kool-aid!

      6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9(for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.

      14For this reason it says,
      “Awake, sleeper,
      And arise from the dead,
      And Christ will shine on you.”

      15Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

  19. Julie and Mancow still have to protect themselves from being sued. Who knows if MacDonald will come back vengeful and try to sue them again, or if the other MacDonalds and his remaining supporters who are still in control of the church would take to the courts again.

    I am sure they need to be very careful how they expose it – particularly when it’s about someone, MacDonald, who admitted to Muller he was using frivolous litigation to maliciously hurt people who he knew didn’t have pockets as big as his, and who would find it very difficult to defend themselves legally against a large organization like HBC.

    Plus, the fact that much more might be coming out may serve as continued motivation for the Elders, XLT, and his sons to do the right thing and step aside.

  20. Thank you, Julie. I appreciate you acknowledging that (1) this isn’t over yet, (2) HBC Elders fired James MacDonald only after being forced, and (3) holiness matters. I’m grateful, too, that you pushed back against the errant notion of there being one best (or worst) medium for exposing church corruption of this magnitude. For many former & current members (self included), there was no other way to warn others and tell the truth. The lawsuit shut down TED, local papers weren’t covering the story, and social media became the only viable outlet for disseminating facts to counter the HBC spin. All media are tools that can be used beneficially or destructively. Not surprisingly, HBC told people to stay off social media. To give such a directive in 21st America is controlling and oppressive.

    I am relieved (not rejoicing) that James MacDonald has been removed from the HBC pulpit. It may not be enough to keep him from setting up shop elsewhere preying on unsuspecting sheep, but it’s a start.

    Next, ALL HBC Elders must resign. If that means they announce their resignation and leave in waves over 1-2 months for practical reasons (a la Willow Creek), that’s fine. The XLT also needs to go. This includes Luke & Landon MacDonald, Jeff Sharda, Jeff Donaldson, and Mo Zachariah. (Mo stepped down from the XLT very recently but had been on the team since September/October 2017.)

    James MacDonald has LONG been disqualified from the pulpit. It’s an affront to anyone who has ever stepped into a Harvest Bible Chapel—and proof of the Elders’ incompetence—to imply that decision to remove James required magical prayers, extra-Biblical insights, and “various trusted outside advisors”.

    Clean the WHOLE house and open the books.

    1. “James MacDonald has LONG been disqualified from the pulpit. It’s an affront to anyone who has ever stepped into a Harvest Bible Chapel—and proof of the Elders’ incompetence—to imply that decision to remove James required magical prayers, extra-Biblical insights, and ‘various trusted outside advisors’.”


      Once again, thank you Jessica for being a voice of reason. If the current elders, and campus pastors at Harvest had a fraction, even a small fraction of the discernment that you do, perhaps not so many people would be clamoring for their soon and swift removal.

      Leaders of Harvest, over and over, your blind (and not so blind) allegiance to James MacDonald…and complicity in enabling him…and duplicity in deceiving others in your flock…has disqualified you long ago from the privilege to lead others in church.

  21. I appreciate everything you have done.

    Here’s where I get lost…

    “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.”

    Regarding the audio…Why is it on Mancow to share what you have heard with your own ears?

    I for 1 am sick of “the process”.

    I have a ton of respect for you but you lose me when u say you know…you’ve heard…It has to change…But some1 else needs to tell the rest of us what you already know.

    Just finish it. Or give it to me and I’ll be “that guy”

    1. I’ll vouch for James, my brother in Christ–he definitely has the ability & the constitution to be “that guy”. ;-)

    2. I second “That Guy James.” I’m also volunteering to post it.

      Publishing this is vital for a reason separate from the HBC debacle. Other “men in powerful positions within evangelicalism” are behaving in direct opposition to Ephesians 5. Thousands are currently suffering from the putrid rotten fruit that is produced when the sins and bad behavior of powerful evangelical leaders are covered up by those who know about these deeds.

      Men in powerful positions in Big Eva have big microphones and a broad span of influence. They are also shaping the Big Eva leaders of tomorrow, which could literally involve thousands of young impressionable pastors seeking to emulate this behavior. In turn, they will be shepherding hundreds of thousands of innocent, trusting sheep with the belief that disqualifying behavior isn’t just okay to engage in around other pastors, it’s actually cool and makes you more like the fabulously wealthy celebrity leaders.

      Keeping this secret isn’t just a disservice to all the pastors and sheep under the spiritual authority & leadership of these powerful men. It’s also a disservice to the men themselves. The reason men like James were able to spiral so far out of control is because too many feared exposing him. These leaders will be subject to a James 3:1 judgment. For the good of these men’s souls & the sheep under their care, please consider posting the recording or at least recap what was said. You aren’t just deterring those men from continuing their foul behavior, this would help deter younger pastors & staff from following in their footsteps. Truth and light is the only way to stop more abuse. Powerful leaders need to believe they can’t keep hiding their dirty deeds in the dark.

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