James MacDonald Makes First Public Appearance at Men’s Retreat for Chicago-based Megachurch

By Julie Roys

Disgraced former celebrity pastor, James MacDonald, this weekend made his first public appearance since being fired from Harvest Bible Chapel for engaging in conduct “harmful to the best interests of the church.” MacDonald reportedly taught at a men’s retreat for New Life Covenant Church, a Chicago-based megachurch that boasts a weekly, global attendance of 17,000.

On Saturday, someone sent me pictures of MacDonald at the retreat. This morning, Chicago radio personality Mancow Muller tweeted that men at New Life Covenant’s retreat were told not to take pictures.

Over the weekend, I reached out to New Life Covenant Senior Pastor Wilfredo “Choco” De Jesus for comment, as well as several other pastors at the church, but no one responded. I also texted MacDonald, who did not respond either. I contacted the leadership at Harvest Bible Chapel, asking whether anyone at the church knew about MacDonald’s speaking engagement. Harvest Lead Ministry Pastor Greg Bradshaw responded, “We were unaware of this event and have had no contact with New Life Covenant about it.”

MacDonald with Pastor Marrero

New Life Covenant’s men’s retreat was held Friday night and Saturday at Wonderland Camp in Salem, Wisconsin. The picture sent to me of MacDonald preaching appears to have been taken in Wonderland Chapel (see picture at bottom of article). Also, several sources have confirmed that sitting next to MacDonald in another photo from this weekend is NLC Humboldt Park Pastor David Marrero.

On Sunday, my husband, Neal, attended New Life Covenant’s 10 a.m. service at its Humboldt Park campus where Marrero spoke. After the service, Neal approached Marrero and engaged him in conversation. However, Neal said that when he identified himself and inquired about James MacDonald speaking at the retreat, Marrero’s eyes got wide and he made a cut motion with his hand across his throat, saying, “I’m not answering any questions about James MacDonald.”

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Lori Griner, a former member of Harvest Bible Chapel, attended a service Sunday at New Life Covenant’s Elgin campus. She told me that she spoke with Victor Rivera, associate pastor of the Elgin campus, who confirmed that MacDonald had spoken at the men’s retreat.

Griner said Rivera said he didn’t know of any plans for MacDonald to come on staff but added that he believed that MacDonald needed to be “restored.” I reached out to Rivera for clarification, but he did not respond.

Over the past 10 months, MacDonald has been accused of numerous offenses, including misusing church funds to cover personal luxury items and trips, bullying staff, and making deceptive and highly inappropriate comments.

MacDonald has not admitted to any of the allegations against him. Instead, he has filed for arbitration against Harvest, seeking ownership of his former broadcast ministry Walk in the Word. MacDonald also posted a statement on Facebook in August, alleging that “much is not at all what has been portrayed” and adding that he looks to the Lord for “vindication of false statements.”

New Life Senior Pastor Wilfredo De Jesus and MacDonald go back at least five years. According to social media posts, De Jesus spoke at Harvest’s Summer for the City outreach in 2014. NLC received money from Harvest after that event to replace the roof and siding of a boys’ home.

On its website, New Life Covenant says it is “one of the fastest growing churches in Chicago.” The church has six campuses in Chicago, one in New Jersey, and one in Connecticut, as well as more than 110 ministries reaching poor, homeless, prostitutes, and gang members.

MacDonald preaching in what appears to be Wonderland Chapel



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53 thoughts on “James MacDonald Makes First Public Appearance at Men’s Retreat for Chicago-based Megachurch”

  1. Carlos: It may indeed be true that the Church acts “no different than those in the world”…..but you are not correct in your earlier misguided post above The problem is that the Church acts “no different than people out in the world” ( your words ) ……..precisely because very few in the Church today understand and even apply the Biblical principle of godly discernment…….Very few pastors nowadays talk about the need for godly discernment anymore…..very few understand the importance of and the need for godly discernment.

    Carlos: you misinterpreted James 4:11 and 12. You quoted it, but you misinterpreted it. That passage does not mean what you tried to wrestle out of it.

    James 4 is in the context of submission to God. God’s Word is the standard, not us. The earthly brother of Jesus, named James, begins James 4 by dissecting the origin of conflict on the horizontal plane or horizontal level. And the Apostle James makes the careful argument that the conflict on the horizontal level ( person to person….relationships ) originates in the core of the human heart. Thus, James argues to the point that the human heart contains wicked desires that lead to conflicts on the horizontal level. And these conflicts stemming from the human heart are illustrative of the problems discussed at the beginning of James 4.

    The Apostle James then makes a strong case for the need for submission to God. Submission, according to James, means possessing a humble heart and the putting on sober, right-minded thinking. James argues that a realistic, sober view of the world ( in the context of submission to God ) is the proper method to do for believers. James argues that this method is relevant to eliminating the problems discussed earlier in James 4:1-3. James argues that “friendship with the world” leads to direct conflict with God. Anyone who is a “friend of the world” is indeed in conflict with his supposed, alleged friendship with God. The context here suggest the need for holy and righteous living with the purification and change of one’s inner heart.

    James then comes to verses 11 and 12 and mentions the topic of slander. Biblically, “Slander” is not defined as the mere mentioning of bad behavior or bad news of a professing believer. Instead, slander is defined on a much stricter definition, and involves the bad intent of maliciously defaming and maligning and poisoning the reputation of another professing believer. Book of Proverbs chapter 6:16 and 6:19 condemns slander.

    But slander never occurred on this blog or on Elephants Debt website !!

    The truth is that Slander actually originated with James Macdonald against Julie Roys and Ryan Mahoney and others. I am using the public audio provided by Mancow when MacDonald ( in the company of others ) hints at ulterior motives for why his enemies attack him.

    Carlos: are you clear on the biblical definition of slander?

    Are you clear on what James has said publicly about others who have dared questioned his bad actions? It is James who has slandered others.

    In contrast, what occurs on this blog is the intentional protection of the flock from ravenous wolves WITHIN the church. it is a Biblical command to warn against ravenous wolves who originate from WITHIN the church.


    do you deny that 2 Timothy chapter 3:1-9 is God’s word? Do you agree that the 2 Timothy 3:1-9 passage refers to those who are coming from WITHIN the church?

    In short, there are multiple witnesses with evidence spanning many years that show that James MacDonald should not teach. That is not slander………rather, that is Truth-telling and warning the sheep against wolves like James MacDonald.

  2. so interesting to me that a church that seems to have such a compassionate heart to the marginalized is completly ignorant to the truth of the scourge of James Macdonald and the swath of destruction he has made on the hearts and minds of thousands in the Chicagoland area. How could a pastor who seems to care for people with so many ministries to homeless etc have no care that a pastor has caused so much damage in the body of Christ? How could pastor C be so blind?? Hmmm often often many people profit off the backs of the least of these by creating ministries that tug on the hearts of believers to donate money. This will be very interesting to watch play out. Pastor C has now just invited a spotlight to be turned on his church, how will it fare?

  3. I hear you! Such a good heartfelt post. Tithe to your family. Church doesn’t teach about investing in our children ever!

  4. Oh boy do we have to start at this all over again? The whole don’t judge. Went through that with the harvest blinders till they saw the truth too. Biblically we are to judge the believer please go read your Bible it’s in there as well as a slew of other verses of the qualifications of eldership

  5. The fact that New Life Covenant Leadership, which includes a “Treasurer” of the Assemblies of God denomination, invited a disgraced pastor who led church into 42 million dollars into debt while he himself and his family members lived extravagant lives and earned MILLIONS of dollars from same church is very disturbing .

    James MacDonald’s leadership caused him and his immediate family members to become multi-millionaires,while church is multi-millions enslaved into DEBT .

    Does Assemblies of God denomination approve of inviting a disgraced pastor to teach Christian men at a so-called Men’s retreat ?

    Does the Assemblies of God denomination approve of the exorbitant lifestyle of James MacDonald ?

    Does the Assemblies of God denomination approve of the pattern of multiple witnesses who went on record warning others about the un-biblical character of James MacDonald?

    Does the Assemblies of God denomination want their present and future leaders to act like James MacDonald?

    Does the Assemblies of God denomination approve of encouraging churches to go into bondage into debt, while at the very same time the so-called “LEADERS” are paying for trophy Alaska bears to be killed and stuffed , all paid for by the tithes and offerings of the congregation?

    Does the Assemblies of God denomination approve of the “Health and Wealth” gospel that was embraced by James MacDonald at the Elephant Room conference in which TD Jakes showed up?

    Does the Assemblies of God denomination approve of teaching that deny the orthodox position of the Trinity?

    TD Jakes denies the Trinity, in favor of modalism view.

    If the answer to any of the above questions is “no”, then that only raises the next question of:

    Then why does a prominent, NATIONAL Leader ( “General Treasurer” ) invite a disgraced pastor to teach men from his church??



    Wilfredo “Choco” De Jesús has served as general treasurer of the Assemblies of God since 2019. He is a member of the Executive Leadership Team. De Jesús oversees the Division of Treasury.

    He served as lead pastor of New Life Covenant Church in Chicago from 2000-2019. During that time, the church grew to 17,000 adherents globally through church campuses, plants, and more than 75 ministries that reach the most disenfranchised: the poor, homeless, prostitutes, drug addicts, and gang members. Prior to this position, De Jesús served as district youth director for the Midwest Latin District (1989-1996) and as executive assistant to the CEO of Chicago Public Schools (1997-1999). He was nominated to serve as a Chicago alderman in 2009 and ran for mayor of Chicago in 2010.

    De Jesús is the first Latino to serve on the Executive Leadership Team. In 2013, he was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world and recognized for his leadership and influence within the evangelical and Latino communities. De Jesús is the author of Amazing Faith, In the Gap, Stay the Course, and Move into More.

    De Jesús holds a doctorate degree from Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida.

    He and his wife, Elizabeth, have three adult children and four grandchildren.

  6. Charles Despeville

    By accusing others here of unlawful judging you judged all here and put yourself in the exact category of unlawful judging… Think it through.

    1. Charles, there is such a thing as righteous judgement. John 7:24 says, ‘do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.’

      What do you mean by, “think it through”?

  7. That is a Great point Sam! People often forget that those who are given much , that much is required of God by them. James has a doctorate degree and has taught out of the bible for decades. Wouldn’t he know the truth better than than the average person? How could anyone who is genuinely saved act the way he has and have no remorse for years? There appears to be no conscience. In fact he seems to have the behavior of an evil man who would do anything in his power to destroy anyone who spoke against him. By our fruit we are known. The tragedy is I doubt he is saved at all and appears to be in the worst possible state of a human being which is one who blasphemes the Holy Spirit. His offense is very grevious to God as he used his name for personal gain. He is no pastor, but a crafty silver tongued business man who uses Jesus for his name.
    Look at the titles of the books he has written over the years. God help him before it is too late. He has spoken judgement on himself even from his prior book titles. I believe he is beyond the point of no return which is horrifying. He chose the god of this world and earthly wealth over the REAL TRUE LIVING GOD. So sad!

  8. Wow, James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll are cut from the same narcissistic, sleazy mold. No repentance, no regret, no concerns except about themselves and building and maintaining their money-making, power seeking brand.

    Shame on MacDonald and those who cover for him and give him a Stage!

  9. Take a hint that NO ONE is responding to you. It’s because you are spreading gossip and furthering the suffering. Allow the Lord to work and restore him. Don’t play God.

    1. Kameron, you write:

      “Julie, hopefully you can find peace with God in your own life so your life and writing can have meaning again.”

      My post will fall on deaf ears again because the PRO – “I follow James MacDonald” crowd refuse to follow Scripture in prohibiting a disgraced pastor with years of broken relationships and abuse to his own church from holding the office of Pastor.

      Kameron: are you James MacDonald? If not, then why do you follow him? Why not follow Christ?

      Why not follow Christ and His Word ( read 1 Corinthians 3 )?

      Kameron: what is it about the “Celebrity Pastor evangelical complex that causes you to ignore the red flags and broken relationships caused by James? Is it his money?

      Perhaps you think James’s wealth of money that he got from the tithes and offerings makes him favorable in your eyes?

      Julie Roys and others here are obeying a Biblical command to warn the unsuspecting sheep about evil men ( called “ravenous wolves” in Scripture ) like James MacDonald

  10. Bob, it is amazing how one sentence can stir you up so much! Wow! Your response is so far off from the truth that I am not even going to waste my time to respond to someone who has that much time to overreact over “one” sentence!

    1. Kameron:

      Hopefully you can find peace with God in your own life, so your life and writing can have meaning again.

      See your earlier quote.

  11. Why don’t you leave the man alone he has been forgiven by our Lord Jesus Christ. Is trying to write his wrongs and change his ways as Christians the Bible says for us to forgive. Maybe have a forgiving heart and let McDonald try and fix the mistakes of his past.

    1. Melvin: “Forgiveness of sins” is a separate issue than the Consequences of your sins. If a wicked Real Estate Agent commits a PATTERN over several years that involves blatant lies, greed, abuse, insubordination, love of money, callous mistreatment of others, pride, deceptions, etc…etc…

      Yes, it is true that Jesus may indeed choose to forgive the wicked Real Estate agent.

      But that does NOT mean that the wicked Real Estate Agent should return to the same career of being a Real Estate agent. The reason is because there was a PATTERN of abuse that led many to conclude that the wicked Real Estate Agent lacks the character necessary to perform his real estate functions.

      The same is true with James. Read carefully the books of 1 Timothy and Titus. These New Testament books teach that Elders or Preachers who lack the character qualifications of an Elder should NOT be in that same role. Instead, they need to be removed from that role.

      James MacDonald does not have the character qualifications of being an Elder.

  12. James I commend you on the efforts you are taking to right your wrongs and get back in Gods will. I pray for you daily. We love you

    1. Melvin: do you love the victims of James MacDonald as much as you love James? I don’t know your heart. Just a question that came to my mind….

      Do you love the victims who have been mistreated by James MacDonald as much as you love James?

  13. I am embarrassed for you and this web-site… All it amounts to is a “Christian” gossip site….that’s all. Stirring the pot….Allowing our enemy to to divide and conquer. Just keep beating up Christian leaders and pastors…I’m sure Jesus is real “proud” of you.

    1. Greg: the story on this site concerns real-life, documented testimonies from multiple witnesses spanning many years. … to see the PDF, I am sure you know how to google “the elephants debt” website and see more evidence.

      But none of the above is the core issue, is it Greg?

      “celebrity pastor devout followers” like Greg have much difficulty understanding complex concepts like 1 Timothy and Titus qualifications for elders and preachers. That is way too deep for him to understand.

      You see, the more julieroys.com Alexa rankings continue to soar, that only means the more an unbelieving, dying world realizes that there are Christians left who refuse to be silent in the midst of abuse, lies, greed, corruption, ethical misconduct, bullying, and flat-out un-biblical Idolatry committed by “celebrity pastors”.

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