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.”

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. As typical of popular pastors who have resigned or who were about to be fired: no oversight by elders from any church, no restoration process proposed or followed, no accountability. Just wait some time and go right back into ministry, start publishing books and maybe start a new church, etc. Same-O same-O, J McD has judged himself to be above reproach and that’s that.

  2. Franklin Graham put an endorsement of Paula Whites new book on Instagram this morning. Wolves in sheep’s clothing are everywhere and endorsed by their own kind. MacDonald is a narcissist so he will be around a long time.

  3. Sadly, the death cult of Santa Muerte is still extremely popular in Hispanic culture and religion, and it would seem that some?/all? of the pastoral staff of this so-called evangelical church are participants. I can see absolutely no other reason why they would invite (and probably pay) a poisonous serpent like MacDonald to come and infect their flock, can any of you?

    Ignorance is not an option: MacDonald’s 30-year-long depravity has been featured in national media outlets for years. Charity is not an option: MacDonald’s sins disqualify him from EVER teaching or leading again. Stupidity is not an option: You don’t hustle in 15,000 souls weekly to this Harvest-wannabe church by being stupid.

    No, call me crazy, but methinks the cult of Santa Muerte is taking root in this church. If you wanted to spiritually kill your flock quickly, I can think of no better way to more quickly ensure death than by bringing in the perverted lying scheming thieving sally-wolf James MacDonald.

    So sad. So wrong. So unconscionable.

  4. Makes me very upset that James has not lifted a finger to address his behavior and sins to his former congregation at HBC. Has not shown any remorse or even contacted a soul. How can he live with himself? Is he even a genuine born again child of God? I think not.

  5. I always pose this question when churches that require their members to be “under care” of their elders (via signing a covenant or membership contract) and their lead pastors go off the rails:

    When will those lead pastors, who choose their own elders (aka Yes Men) be subject to the discipline they put their church members through? When a man or woman leaves their spouse without biblical grounds, and the church puts that member under church discipline, and said member don’t respond or submit themselves to church leadership … then they are put out of the church and treated as an unbeliever. So, in essence, this church has invited someone who cannot be confirmed a believer to speak.

    **I don’t necessarily have a problem with church membership contracts or church discipline when exercised without malice, and exercised with compassion and patience.

  6. Charles Despeville

    This shows and again reckless, irresponsible, corrupted and fictitious nature of broad evangelicalism and especially in a mega faux-naif edition of megachurches. Truly, you have to be incredibly ignorant or unashamedly thick or both to sit and listen to MacDonald. Then again such is the vast majority (but not all of course) broadly understood evangelicalism not to mention a massive portion of pentecostalism.

  7. I’ve seen no proof of what they say he did. To be accused falsely is worse than to be preaching again. Those who have fallen have a very important message to give. But first make sure one is guilty of what they have been accused of.

  8. Very disillusioned former HBC member

    This is sooo grievous!! There are so many people (myself included) who have become deeply disillusioned about the church due to the actions of James MacDonald. And he has made not ONE statement of repentance or even acknowledgment that his actions were wrong. Oh, it is so hard to see this.

  9. I must confess that the thing that came to mind for me is “isn’t he getting too old to be going to the tattoo parlor and wearing shredded jeans?” Sure, there’s a place for being relevant to the culture and all, but I’d thought that “mutton dressed as lamb” still was a turn-off.

  10. We can’t figure out why Pastor James hasn’t been formally investigated by the authorities. Is it just impossible to do so the way the Executive Elder Board was structured? Did that basically authorize him (on paper) to do the things he did? Or is it also because so many leaders are under perpetual non-disclosure agreements? God’s aware, but you’re right Julie, restoration comes AFTER repentance.

    James himself took a sabbatical because in his own words said thing like

    “I have carried great shame about this pattern in certain relationships that can only be called sin.”

    “I am grieved that people I love have been hurt by me in ways they felt they could not express to me directly and have not been able to resolve”

    “I blame only myself for this and want to devote my entire energy to understanding and addressing these recurring patterns”

    His most recent statements have been to the tune of, “But we look to the Lord for forgiveness where I did fail as a leader and for vindication of false statements that will not cover forever what others have done.”

    How has he sought restoration with those he hurt? Or is this now about praying God will get even with his enemies? For vindication? That sounds like the anger he has been trying to repent of. Speaking in secret, manipulating the Naples church also doesn’t appear to come from repentance.

    And I’m sorry if you had a history of stabbing a butter knife through the photo of a pastor who disagreed with you and using the photos of pastor’s wives as target for your pellet gun, being harsh to students on camera, suing other believers, using church money to buy people cars and motorcycles, etc. you have a LOT of loose ends to tie up before you should be considered “above reproach” and trusted by anyone. It’s possible, but the burden is on James.


    I spent about 8 years attending the “Mother Church” at HBC. Loved it , cause “I was loved”. As I escaped the “seeker friendly” movement and found solid biblically based expository preaching and excellent heartfelt worship I assumed I was in a good place. Surrounded by solid biblical teaching and authentic worshippers. As a 38 year Christian and faithful weekly member/attender of churches for all of my years as a Christian, JMac was the one who finally disillusioned me to the Church. ( My hope is that somehow he reads some of this crap and sees what his actions have done to people like myself (a very average Bible loving , Jesus adoring, child rearing, faithful Husband and father that shows up to work everyday to support his family day after day plugging along Christian. Plugging away at the mundane life but very content and satisfied in Him.) I put him in the same boat these days as Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Paula White, Joel Osteen, TD Jakes etc… the same people he use to deride as “prosperity preachers”. It all started a downward spiral for me when I went to see Voddie Bauchum(sp?) at a men’s conference in Elgin and noticed someone other than Voddie sitting next to JMac prior to the session. Started to get an uneasy feeling. I started to notice things differently from that point on. Voddie never spoke at that conference even though he was in the house. They had agreed to disagree on what was surrounding the whole elephant room debacle. I liked what I remember Josh Caterer saying through TED website one time , he had nothing personal against JMac he just kind of saw some changes developing in his character. I agreed with that statement for my own personal experience. Obviously never had a conversation with the “celebrity” pastor in my 8 years, but that was not a problem for me. The Church is about the relationships you develop with those close to you (i.e. small group etc..). As a faithful financial supporter of every ministry/church I have ever been affiliated with JMac got me to the point where I no longer financially support any church. I’m not saying I won’t in the future but I am EXTREMELY skeptical about giving any $$$$ to the church and pretty much stopped when I left Harvest about 5 years ago. I could no longer give my hard earned money that I “sacrificed” to give to the Church and find out about this behind the scenes exorbitant spending at my expense , ARE YOU KIDDING ME , I would say to myself. I’m sure I am not alone. I am only one person who would give let’s say anywhere between $8,000 and $10,000/year (about 10% of gross) to the Cause and now that amount is no longer going into the coffers from my pocket. Multiply that by however many people feel like I do and it’s a significant impact on what good the Church could have done with additional funding. It makes me realize that our individual day to day decisions have a significant impact that is far reaching far beyond anything that we could have thought. For instance the Church may want to have an outreach to increase the kingdom but they can’t do it cause they don’t have sufficient funds because people like me no longer give. ……”But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people…..II Tim 3:1-5.

    And don’t even get me started on all these other “woke churches” these days paying homage to Fr. Richard Rohr and other heresies that are infiltrating the so called “Church”. Whatever happened to the gospel message of substitutionary atonement. Isn’t that the baseline gospel message that our faith is all about?? People , I have about given up these days , not on my own personal relationship with the Lord and His Word but the Church in general, I hate to say it but I am about done and how is that going to impact raising my children who are still young? We used to be a church-going family but from what I see out there , it ain’t worth it and like I said I haven’t missed being involved in a church for decades!!!!!!

  12. “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.”

    Yes, church discipline always has restoration in mind. However, restoration doesn’t necessarily mean return to public ministry.

  13. ForSuchATimeAsThis

    God forgive me for my intense anger over this whole thing – especially “former pastor” James MacDonald. Please can’t someone do something about him? Are all the first responders on his payroll and won’t lift a finger to put him in prison for life? Someone out there has evidence that can bring him to court and put him behind bars for the rest of his life. He needs to be in solitary so he cannot hurt any more or Christ’s TRUE Body! Anybody?

    Lord, you are our only answer and YOUR time is what we’re waiting for now. Please help me, Lord for wanting things to be done my way and in my time!

  14. James MacDonald, Actor (hypocrite).

    Jesus used the word “hypocrite” to condemn destructive, religious phonies, and in His day the word implied “actor”.
    This is how I view James MacDonald, based on the public exposure of his incorrigible, abusive behavior and unrepentant misdeeds.

    But let’s face it, today’s evangelical churches (and “ministries”) have largely degenerated into theatrical stages for money-grubbing performers and illusionists anyway.

    So, is it any surprise that James MacDonald desires to hire himself out and reprise his most famous fictional role as a so-called pastor? And is it any surprise that New Life Covenant Church is willing to hire an aging, tiresome hypocrite for a shtick preaching performance?

    At this point in my life, I feel overwhelmed with the phoniness and rapaciousness of fake Christian organizations and people. But then I remember that Jesus Christ is returning (soon!), and I’m revived. Come Lord Jesus! Hurry back, we need You.

  15. Charles Despeville

    Mutton as a lamb is a part of camouflage of the real trick. Wolf as a lamb and more precisely alpha wolf as a shephard.

  16. What is going on nowadays?

    Look, I have NO problem with James MacDonald attending a Men’s Retreat. I hope he gets Spiritually fed and I hope his eyes get woken up. For me, the only issue is: WHY IN THE WORLD is MacDonald invited to teach and Lead others at a Men’s Retreat ? MacDonald does NOT have the character attributes of a Biblical Elder according to 1 Timothy. MacDonald should NOT be in the role of a Teacher or Deacon or Elder. He lacks the qualifications.

    For others here who are Not aware of the publicly Documented facts with multiple witnesses spanning many, many years………please read this below:






    James MacDonald does not have the character qualifications to teach others.

  17. What is going on nowadays?

    Notice that the church that invited disgraced James Macdonald to speak at a Men’s retreat has MARRIED COUPLES as their Leadership team? So this means that the church body itself is subject to the authority of a married couple ( s )? Regardless if you support Egalitarians or not …..regardless if you support Women Pastors or not……the fact that married couples are in a Joint Pastor S ( plural “S” ) raises alarm bells here !! What about the accountability ? What if a congregant has a problem with a particular pastor? Are we to naively assume that the spouse ( joint pastor ) will be Objective and forthcoming and deal with the root issue of any problem issue between a church member and the “spouse”? The reality-based answer is: “Of Course Not !!!” The JOINT Pastors ( plural “S” ) are married to each other !! There is no accountability here because they are married to each other. Why anyone would submit their Money and Lives and sit under the authority of a Married couple and NOT see the alarm bells go off escapes me !!! Which is why disgraced Pastor MacDonald made sure to put his sons on as many leadership boards at HBC as possible. Nepotism works wonders !! No wonder New Life Covenant invited James to speak !! https://www.mynewlife.org/leadership

  18. if a church leadership continues to endorse wicked men like James MacDonald by having him speak, then please stop pretending that christian believers have a standard !! please stop pretending that non-believers are “bad people and have no standard”………from my perspective….if what James did happened at any secular org, then he would be quickly fired with no financial compensation, and he would be told to prepare next for a lifetime of choosing a different job. but not so within christian circles: we reward wicked men like James by giving them a platform to teach men. shame on the church for her disobedience to Scripture. shame on New Covenant Life for having no standards shame on those who continue to follow wicked men and disobeying God and His holy word !!

  19. by the way, notice that James MacDonald has no problem and no difficulty with spewing lies at elephant debt website, mahoney, and julie roys by suggesting to others that they are attacking him merely under false motives……remember that? remember, James never said, “i was wrong…..”; rather, James joked about Julie having an alleged affair and he said untrue, bad things about ryan Mahoney in the company of other people? I mention this because my question to the New Covenant Life leadership is: “why do you pretend that James is striving for repentance? why do you pretend when James himself stopped pretending a long time ago?” James stopped pretending to repent a long time ago when he attacks his accusers in a dishonest effort to get people to not look at the documented stories of multiple witnesses who are bold enough to call James a wolf. New Covenant Life: this is who you want your men to learn from? A wolf? Shame on New Covenant Life for their disobedience to Scripture for having a wolf and his long trail of bad, Unbiblical behavior rewarded with a platform to speak !!

  20. What is New Life thinking? James is an unconvinced criminal. He is completely without credibility. Just needs to make a living. Okay then. Give him a mop and a broom!

  21. Well, well. What have we here? You can take James Sherwood MacDonald out of Naples, but you can’t take the Bad Boy persona outta him. I suppose it ought to suit him just fine. He’s been the bad pastor. The bad bully. The bad crook. The bad phony and liar. The bad wolf. The bad . . .

  22. Many witnessed to me when I was lost. They spoke of a God of forgiveness.

    They encouraged me to turn and see

    To trust and follow

    That no1 was too far gone

    When I gave my life to Christ, Jesus was there for me just like those brothers and sisters said he would be..

    God IS a Good Good Father and it’s His Love and Kindness that leads us to repentance.

    It’s time to pray for James and stop assuming the worst about an org like New Life without engaging in Christian conversation.

    HBC wired many to believe the best to a fault..

    If I am not careful I’ll become the opposit .. believing the worst… making me guilty of the same partiality that scripture warns against and so many were guilty of in overlooking the issues at HBC for decades.

  23. It has to do with the difference between idiotic management/financial decisions and criminal management/financial decisions. The data I’ve seen (perhaps I’m wrong) suggest the former, but not the latter. To qualify for the latter, you’ve got to pretty much commit some level of fraud. Can I prove that? Not yet. Perhaps our hostess can.

  24. Former HBC Member

    The big beard…the fully sleeved arm tattoo…the ripped jeans. This guy has gone off the rails, and someone needs to tell him that he’s nearly 60 years old. Grow up. I remember the James MacDonald who used to wear a suit to preach every Sunday. IMHO, it was his cancer diagnosis that changed everything. He started hanging out with Greg Laurie in California while he was receiving treatment and then he began dressing and acting much differently. It’s very sad to see.
    After being at Harvest RM for nearly 20 years and having gone through what I have with this church (and unfortunately, the next one I attended as well), it appears that there is a SERIOUS problem in Evangelical Christianity today. Our churches and it’s leaders are corrupted by pride, power and money. Pastors living in huge mansions, all paid for by suckers like you and me who tithe our income from these less-than-exciting jobs we spend 40, 50, 60 hours a week performing. All going to these people who live lavish lifestyles on our dime. Makes me sick to my stomach that I have tithed WELL over 6 figures to that church and the most recent one, only to see the pastors living high and mighty.
    Like one of the posters above, I am very jaded to the church, and I think we’ve reached a very crucial point point in Christianity where not even our pastors and churches can be trusted. We are a couple more seconds to midnight, and then the Lord returns. Today, Russia, Turkey and Iran declared a partnership. Be awake believer and watch very closely at what’s going on.

    1. I too noticed the change over time. Subtle changes but obvious changes. The suit jacket/nice slacks slowly changed to jeans and HD wear. It is very sad to see the transformation. It appears that the McDonald kids have landed nicely on their feet. Looks like Landon is now in AZ and Luke is in sunny southern CA. can’t get much farther away from the issues than the west coast.

  25. It’s sad how we see everyone on this page judging even if James Macdonald is wrong it’s Gods job to judge not ours as Christians we should all be supporting and encouraging each other that tearing each other down. This is why the Church is failing we act no different then people that are out in the world. James 4 11-12 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

    1. The Bible says we shall know them by their fruit. It’s amazing to me that people refuse to accept James MacDonald for who he is based on his own words and behavior. At least two witnesses have stated MacDonald wanted to have someone murdered. I’m sorry but murder isn’t fruit produced by the spirit of God. We are no one to judge our neighbor but we sure can judge his actions and MacDonald’s action are rotten to the core. This is not a Christian brother. Open your eyes and don’t be deceived.

    2. Carlos: it is indeed unfortunate how we see you misinterpret the “judge not, lest we be judged” passage in the New Testament book of Matthew, like you just did. You misinterpreted that passage ( Matthew 7:1-3 ).
      You are mistaken in your post above. As a result of your common mistake, many charlatans and false prophets and profane, wicked men are deceiving and fleecing the flock ( just like James Macdonald did for many years ). The New Testament clearly teaches that the Church of Jesus Christ is indeed called to judge believers, not unbelievers. We are not called to judge unbelievers. It is our Task to judge believers. The way we judge believers is NOT to harbor an attitude of haughty pride or a sense of higher self worth. Rather, the proper way we are called to judge fellow believers is by reminding fellow believers of the objective standard called the Word of God. Please read 1 Corinthians 5 and 6 for more details. We are not supposed to sugar-coat it and to turn a blind eye to the pattern of wrong-doing, lies, and deceit, and greed exhibited in the years of James Macdonald, as testified by multiple witnesses.

      Carlos: do you realize that by your actions above, you are contributing to the problem. The problem is not that multiple witnesses are calling attention to the pattern of wrong-doing by James MacDonald. The core issue is that Christians like yourself refuse to submit to Scriptural teaching on the proper and balanced and biblical method of judging believers. Because of the church’s refusal to submit to Scripture, people like Carlos permit and salute the actions of wicked false prophets like James MacDonald and encourage them to stay behind a pulpit. meanwhile, the list of victims and widows and middle class and poor people mistreated and fleeced by James MacDonald continue to grow and grow and grow………….

      Carlos: if you submit to Scripture, then it is your job to judge believers ( but not unbelievers ).


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