Luke MacDonald Launches New Church

By Julie Roys
Luke MacDonald
Luke MacDonald in a YouTube video posted on June 26, 2020.

Luke MacDonald, the son of disgraced celebrity pastor, James MacDonald, is launching a new church in the Chicago area this Sunday.

Luke was an executive pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel, but resigned his position in the wake of his father’s termination for alleged bullying, deception, and financial misconduct. 

Luke has faced similar allegations. Former Harvest members told The Roys Report that Luke is every bit the bully his father is. Plus, they recounted bizarre stories of Luke MacDonald urinating in meetings, throwing chairs in a rage, and failing to report abuse of a minor in Harvest’s youth ministry.

This Sunday, Luke MacDonald’s new church, Good News in the Neighborhood, will hold its first services at Chez Hotel in Arlington Heights, a suburb of Chicago.

The church initially was scheduled to meet at Durty Nellies, a bar in suburban Chicago. However, on Thursday, the church announced the new location. The change may be due to Illinois law, which prohibits establishments from getting liquor licenses if they are located within 100 feet of any church.

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After resigning from Harvest in 2019, the younger MacDonald took a pastoral job at Faithful Central Bible Church in Los Angeles. This past November, Luke MacDonald announced he was returning to Chicago to plant a church and began gathering a group of people interested in helping him.

In anticipation of this Sunday’s launch, James MacDonald announced his son’s church plant on social media. (Despite being disqualified for public ministry by his former church, James MacDonald said he also will be re-launching his new ministry in the Chicago area.)

Also promoting Luke MacDonald’s new church is ARC—Association of Related Churches, one of the largest church planting networks in the country. ARC has planted more than 600 churches, and has hundreds more partner churches in the U.S. and around the world. 

Not only does ARC provide training and coaching for pastors. It also matches dollar-for-dollar the first $50,000 raised for new church plants.

ARC Luke MacDonald

ARC’s Lead Team includes at least two pastors who have had extramarital affairs. These include John Gray, the pastor of Relentless Church who’s admitted to “emotional affairs.” ARC’s executive director, Dino Rizzo, admitted to an “inappropriate affair” in 2012, but returned to ministry 14 months later.

Arguably, the most famous ARC-affiliated church is Robert Morris’ Gateway Church—the largest church in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, with an estimated attendance of 36,000. 

When Mark Driscoll—who’s been a close friend of James MacDonald’s—was disqualified by his former church for harsh and domineering behavior, Morris came to Driscoll’s aid. Within days of resigning from from Mars Hill, Driscoll made a surprise appearance with Morris onstage at Gateway’s annual conference. Morris also served as an advisor to Driscoll when Driscoll planted The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

Those attending services at Good News in the Neighborhood tomorrow are encouraged to register before coming. In an email, MacDonald also urged them to pray and to give.

“We are asking every member of our little church to prayerfully bring an offering on March 7,” the email said. “Giving is part of our worship and we want to bring all of ourselves to this new venture.”

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49 thoughts on “Luke MacDonald Launches New Church”

    1. Oh my word! Let me empty my pockets to fill the McDonald family’s. Thats all they have ever been about. How much can you give me. None of them have any business preaching the word of God, because they don’t practice the word.

    1. Sad but very true!!! My husband was a witness to their disgusting abusive behavior and was completely shocked at what was going on at Harvest. My husband was very involved in the act like men program and said that these are not people that act like men they act like savages.

    1. Since the evangelical industrial complex was fully exposed by the four years of praising trump as a godly (sic) man I am more turned off of non denominational churches then ever before. How do people attend these houses of hate and give money to the narcissistic people. all I see are leaders with impulse control and anger management issues. God did give us the gift of common sense and to not fear walking away from false profits (sic). It’s sad and they are all like some cult interacting and feeding off each other for there success. I don’t see Jesus anywhere in there ministry’s. And they will gladly yell that God doesn’t react well when someone mocks his prophets. Well boys and girls show me your an actual prophet and I ready to listen. They forget God talks to me too.

  1. These men will just not go away, but it is the undiscerning sheep that follow these charlatans that make it work. Very sad, not that he is preaching because that’s all he can probably do, but sad because of the silly sheep that follow him…. AND bring their offerings… of course!

    1. Pray for those sheep. I was one of them once. Their eyes are still blinded, but the scales can fall by the power of God. It’s a painful process.

    2. Agreed. So glad I will be leaving Chicago and the evil preachers in the town. The corrupt preachers and the corrupt politians are made for each other.

  2. Wouldn’t it make sense to visit a start-up church and see whether you like it before you decide to contribute? What if you dislike it and don’t think it should succeed?

    1. Curious Counselor

      My hunch is that they already “like” him and are simply following him to the new church. That happens pretty frequently in MegaChurch Christianity.

      It feels not entirely dissimilar to the Ravi fans who still defend him even in the face of the RZim Board statement confirming all of the news about Ravi’s very troubling
      behavior.

  3. Very sad. The very thing him and his father taught – true repentance – has yet to be evident in either if their lives. I believe that’s called hypocrisy. “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” Titus 1:16
    So thankful God snatched me out of their mess years ago!

  4. Buyer beware!

    “Spiritual power is yet another kind of power that can be dangerous unless it is exercised in obedience to God. This form of power is used to control, manipulate, or intimidate others to meet one’s own needs or the needs of a particular organization, often by using words cloaked in nice-sounding spiritual language and concepts.”

    Langberg, Diane. Redeeming Power (p. 9). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

    1. So James McDonald was the boss, and his son one of the capos. With the boss out of the picture, the capo still has his local turf it looks like. I swear most of these megachurch organizations and other so-called ministries (GTY/GCC/TMUS and RZIM for example) have an org chart no different that the Gambino crime family. And their antics, attitudes, scams, and sources of revenue are much the same.

      A number of states are using the RICO statutes to go after the Catholic Church in its protection of pedophile priests, maybe that will happen in the Evangelical World for the crimes of some of these organizations.

  5. Where is grace? Is there any room for someone to change under the repentance and guidance of Christ. I totally understand the abuse and effect moral and human failure has on the sacredness of reflecting stain on a perfect God of Love. But let’s get honest. Every day we decided what path to choose one of good or evil but isn’t that what our relation with Christ is about? I often wonder what it would be like to speak or write about the why’s rather than passing such judgments on one whom may have already repented!

    1. There’s always room for grace. But to receive grace, one must repent to both God and those you have sinned against. To my knowledge, Luke has not done that, and I’ve talked to a lot of people he’s wronged.

      1. Yep, that is correct Julie. No one I know from the thousands who knew them is aware of any form of repentance. It’s disgusting to think of him preaching at this point. God calls us to be wise… stay away. If you’re not sure, read the Bible, it will become very clear, very quickly.
        Thanks Julie for your work!!

      2. Has he reached out to Kevin Rowan and apologize for the bullying and abuse he suffered from him and his brother, Landon? I doubt it.

      1. Grace means is he is welcomed back into the fellowship after repentance, but that DOES NOT mean he gets to be in a position of leadership. There are Biblical qualifications for elders and deacons and neither Luke nor James MacDonald qualify (and I would argue most of the celebrity pastors we have today).

  6. I am surprised, not surprised that ARC picked him up. The Louisiana “mafia” at work. The network is full of pastors like him. Full of pride and narcissistic that have perfected making the church into a business. They love to help the “fallen” so that they can collect on “I cover your back and you cover mine”. And don’t forget to put that “Rabbi Trust” into your by-laws when you incorporate your church! It’s a lucrative business all the while 42% of the world still has never heard the gospel. Too busy building man’s kingdoms to build God’s Kingdom.

  7. Former Calvinist Former Cessationist

    For so many years Evangelicals, Reformed, Baptists, and Bible church folks looked down on Pentecostals because of the scandals of the flashy televangelists and the prosperity preachers, assuring everyone that good Calvinist doctrine and a “rational” faith would inoculate believers against gullibility. I did a quick search and found 20 Evangelical, Reformed theology, churches, most over 10,000 members, with their churches in shambles due to leadership failures of every type and with various kinds sexual unfaithfulness, financial/nepotistic greed, and bullying pastors leading the way. Preaching “blessed insurance” via “decisions for Christ” isn’t getting the job done. Jn 3:16 is “whosoever continues to believe in Him will not perish..” (present continuous tense)

    We need the richness of solid preaching/teaching of the Word, and the ministrations of the Spiritual gifts, and the Fruit of the Spirit. We need a return of preaching about repentance, holy living, church membership (and with it church discipline), and prayer. If Ravi Z teaches us anything, it is that we need the return of a healthy fear of God. Time to jettison the entertainment, the show, and get down to church.

    Get a large group of people gathered and the vultures are drawn to it. Believers beware. “Test everything. Hold on to what is true.” (1 Thess 5:21)

    1. However, what is true is not this gospel of fear you are advocating for. Christianity has been preaching this abomination for centuries now and it is time to stop. Stop the fear-mongering, the shaming, the guilt-tripping and the manipulation! None of it is godly. The Bible speaks of God as Father, who is Love, invitational, full of grace and kindness. If you carefully read the passages where the word “fear” shows up it has the meaning of “careful to not sadden the one (God) I love”.
      Truth is a person- Jesus. Not a set of theological interpretations you happen to prefer.

      1. Former Calvinist Former Cessationist

        A.R. Thank you for the thoughtful reply. I respectfully submit that the meaning of the term “fear of God” is driven by the context, by semantics. You are correct in stating that “fear of God” most often means a deep respect for Him, so deep that one is grieved at disappointing Him, especially in the New Testament.

        However, the fear of God doesn’t always mean that. Sometimes the context clearly means to be afraid, especially because He is just and will judge sin. It is similar to the fear one has of an earthly judge or a parent, fear that He will hold us to account. Consider:

        “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Jesus in Mt 10:28)

        “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (written to Christians turning back to Judaism Heb 10:30-31)

        After the death by God’s judgment of Ananias and Saphira, we read. “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.” (Ac 5:11) Does this sound like fear at disappointing God? It is soul-shaking, holy fear that God judges the liar, even the professing Christian liar.

        Do you think when Paul told the Corinthians that some were sick and others had died because the sinned against their brothers and sisters at communion that they feared disappointing God or was their a tinge of fear of God’s judgment/chastisement? 1 Cor 11:30-31 reads, “That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment.”

        As one scholar noted, “Fear of God is the feeling of reverent regard for God, tempered with awe and fear of punishment for disobedience.” God’s love is not an enabling and patronizing love (as Paul says in Rom 6:1, …Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”), nor is it a one time insurance policy that forever exempts us from God’s chastisement/judgment. The fear of being held accountable for wrong doing is not a destructive fear, but a healthy one.

        Just like the Law, especially the Ten Commandments, check our potential abuse of grace, the fear of God (across the continuum of meaning) checks our abuse of the love of God.

      2. CRYING FROM THE MOUNTAIN

        And don’t forget the ever popular …… “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, SEVERITY; but toward thee, goodness, IF THOU CONTINUE in his goodness: OTHERWISE thou also shalt be cut off.”
        Rom 11:22
        I wonder if the the word “SEVERITY” has some form of interpretation from some sort of Bible translation that who knows what some sort of “person” made?

  8. I grew up in the British Methodist Church where ministerial appointments are five years in length. A popular minister can typically extend for another five year term with consent from all sides, but anything beyond that is highly unusual.

    The itinerant nature of the ministry was a founding principle of Methodism, as John Wesley explained: “We have found by long and consistent experience that a frequent exchange of preachers is best. This preacher has one talent, that another; no one whom I ever yet knew has all the talents which are needful for beginning, continuing, and perfecting the work of grace in a whole congregation.”

    While it can be a wrench for a congregation to lose a popular pastor after five or ten years, it does have the benefit of preventing cases where a decades-long tenured pastor turns their church into their own personal fiefdom and all the abuses of power that entails, and it certainly helps to keep pastors (truly) humble knowing that no one is irreplaceable.

  9. Billy “tired of wolves in the church” Foote

    The ARC loves some good jack ass ceo businessmen pastors. Young Luke boy will be a shining star in their organization.

  10. I guess we will find out Luke’s real character running his new church. How he treats his staff, how he uses the offerings, etc. should all come out. Just because his father was a mess doesn’t mean his son will be one too. Personally I find Luke’s sermons utterly boring, meandering, with little if any coherent or relevant points. He just isn’t a good speaker. But I guess it beats working at Starbucks.

    1. Julie’s reporting has left little doubt that Luke is a chip off the old block when it comes to how he treats his staff. But you are right that regardless of his personal behavior, the success of his ministry will depend on how good a preacher and pastor he is, though if he struggles, don’t be surprised if his dad lends him some of his star-power from the pulpit to help him get going.

  11. I thought all HBC pastors had to sign a non-competitive clause and not serve in another church within a 30 miles radius of the HBC campus.

  12. CRYING FROM THE MOUNTAIN

    STAY TUNED ! THIS IS EXCITING !
    not really at all not even for a second
    Has anyone ever taken a moment to look at his face and the darkness in his eyes , didn’t Jesus talk about that somewhere? Why yes He did…………

  13. He probably left L.A. because there’s no way a kid who grew up in Inverness can relate to people who live in the inner city. I was a high school leader from 2004-2010, first under the incredible Josh Weiddeman then under this guy. I’ve had a few stories with him and can verify some of the temper problems. Luke doesn’t belong managing a Subway let alone pastoring a church

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