James MacDonald

James MacDonald Accuses Harvest of Stealing $6.6 Million & Running “Campaign to Destroy My Reputation”

By Julie Roys

Disgraced pastor, James MacDonald, yesterday posted—and hours later deleted—a statement accusing Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC) of stealing $6.6 million from MacDonald’s former broadcast ministry, Walk in the Word (WITW), and then running a “year-long campaign to destroy my reputation.”

MacDonald also accused Harvest of paying Attorney Sally Wagenmaker $300K to create a “a financial fiction” about MacDonald’s spending to justify the church’s seizure of WITW funds.

Wagenmaker was the attorney who last year conducted a financial review of Harvest’s finances and then concluded that MacDonald had misused millions of church funds “for improper financial benefit.”

Last month, Harvest disclosed that the church gave MacDonald all digital and physical assets of WITW, including $1.2 million and a parcel of land, as part of a recent arbitration settlement.

But clearly, MacDonald is not satisfied with the settlement.

“Not returned is the $6.6 million in WITW donor funds, which HBC and their bank, the Evangelical Christian Credit Union (ECCU), actually stole from WITW,” MacDonald wrote.

MacDonald also expressed dissatisfaction with a meeting he had with Harvest’s elders on October 20.

MacDonald said the elders “scoffed” at MacDonald’s insistence that he had reimbursed the church for personal expenses incurred when MacDonald was at HBC.  

MacDonald said Pastor Jeff Gill of Calvary Church South Bay and retired Pastor Dave Stone of Southeast Christian Church also attended his meeting with the elders. According to MacDonald, Gill and Stone were “in shock over how stiff necked these Laird Elders really are.” (Brian Laird is the elder chairman at HBC.)

I reached out to Pastors Gill and Stone for comment but did not immediately hear back.

I also reached out to Harvest to respond to MacDonald’s many accusations, but the church did not respond.

The Conspiracy

MacDonald alleged in his letter that the “cruel illegalities” he suffered at Harvest’s hands were the result of “three factions” that conspired against him.

One of the alleged “factions” is former Harvest executive committee elder and treasurer Jeff Smith. According to MacDonald, Smith “feared fiduciary responsibility” for a mortgage refinance failure, so he “panicked and led the unlawful seizure of $6.6 million . . . apparently deciding I was worth more ‘dead’ than alive.”

In 2018, while MacDonald was still at Harvest, the church sued the ECCU because the credit union refused to refinance four of Harvest’s five loans. (To date, Harvest has more than $35 million in mortgage debt.)

After firing MacDonald, the church dropped the lawsuit, which it called “sinful,” and apologized for filing it.

According to MacDonald, Smith . . . “panicked and led the unlawful seizure of $6.6 million . . . apparently deciding I was worth more ‘dead’ than alive.”

Another “faction” MacDonald accused of conspiring against him is Dallas Jenkins, former HBC executive director of Vertical Church Films. MacDonald calls Jenkins a “disgruntled former staff member” and claims that Jenkins led a “letter campaign” with “the goal of revenge.”

Jenkins was one of six former staff members who wrote devastating letters to Harvest’s elder board shortly before Harvest fired MacDonald. These letters documented scores of incidents where MacDonald mocked, threatened, and belittled staff; lied and reneged on promises; raged at those around him; and prospered financially at the church’s expense. (Links to the letters are posted at the end of this article.)

I reached out to Jenkins for comment about MacDonald’s statement about him, but he did not respond.

The remaining factions MacDonald accuses are campus pastors, Greg Bradshaw, who resigned last month, and Mo Zachariah, pastor of Cityline Bible Church—a former HBC campus that became an autonomous church last year.

MacDonald accuses the pastors of using “their control of Elder selection” for the purpose of “elevating their own position.” MacDonald also states that Bradshaw was terminated from HBC. (Bradshaw and Harvest, however, maintain that Bradshaw resigned.)

“Repentance” for his “role in relational matters”

Despite these many personal allegations, MacDonald writes, “At no time have I failed to express repentance about my role in relational matters underlying these public events.”

I have spoken to dozens of former key Harvest staff and elders. None of them report that MacDonald has expressed any remorse for his actions toward them.

MacDonald also has never apologized to me or the four other people he sued in 2018 for allegedly defaming him. (Harvest later dropped the suit and apologized for bringing it.)

In addition, MacDonald has sued his former close friend, radio personality Mancow Muller, for defamation. That case is ongoing.

Other Claims

MacDonald also claimed in his statement that Harvest’s method of firing him “broke Scripture, HBC bylaws, and common sense.”

According to Harvest’s bylaws, the senior pastor “shall only be removed by unanimous recommendation of the Executive Committee and by the consensus of the Elder Board.”

Dan George, a former Harvest elder, who was on the board when MacDonald was fired, told The Roys Report that Harvest’s Executive Committee brought a unanimous recommendation to terminate MacDonald’s employment to the February 12, 2019, elder board meeting. George added that every elder approved MacDonald’s termination at the February 12 meeting.

George also said that MacDonald vehemently opposed giving the six letters critical of MacDonald to the full elder board. MacDonald instead insisted that the letters should have gone to a reconciliation team, where George said they likely would have not been seen by a majority of the elders.

Dan George, a former Harvest elder . . . told The Roys Report that Harvest’s Executive Committee brought a unanimous recommendation to terminate MacDonald’s employment . . .

In his recent statement, MacDonald also objected to the elders’ “DQ (disqualification) process,” calling it “rancid and revealing.”

In November 2019, Harvest’s elders formally disqualified MacDonald for public ministry after conducting an internal investigation and concluding that MacDonald “had a substantial pattern of sinful behavior in numerous areas.”  

This pattern included misrepresenting that gifts MacDonald bought using Harvest funds were actually from him; “extravagant spending utilizing church resources”; displaying an “insulting, belittling, and verbally bullying others”; and being “hasty and reckless.”

MacDonald also alleged that Harvest’s “firing of 10 faithful people closest to us . . . was unconscionable.”

However, George said the only person close to MacDonald that Harvest fired in 2019 was MacDonald’s assistant, Sharon Kostal. All other top Harvest staff who left in the wake of MacDonald’s firing, like his sons Luke and Landon, resigned. Luke and Landon MacDonald’s resignation letters are posted online.

MacDonald ends his statement by insisting that all members of Harvest’s elder board “resign immediately.” He also calls on new elders, John Smith and Jeff Thompson, to “show some courage and insist that . . . all wrongs are righted.”

MacDonald says until these demands are met, Harvest “has nothing to look forward to, because as I taught you all for 30 years, God will not bless with all this sinful garbage buried under your tent.”

UPDATE: On Wednesday (Nov 11), Mancow Muller spoke publicly for the first time since MacDonald filed a lawsuit against him in response to this story. In a text to me, Muller wrote:

How ironic Lady Macbeth MacDonald is screaming into the shadows of his mansion blaming everybody but himself. Really something that this man who relished kicking the people out of God’s church that dared to question his lavish spending is now upset that he himself was kicked out? Oh ye hypocrite! His sin was revealed. Truth reported. Where is the repentance or humility in anything he does. Where is God in anything MacDonald does?

James MacDonald’s Full Online Statement:

James MacDonald 3James MacDonald 4James MacDonald 5James MacDonald 6

 

To view the letters submitted by former Harvest staff, click on the links below:

  • Dean Butters (former HBC executive director of business operations)
  • Jacob Ross (former bodyguard of James MacDonald)
  • Dallas Jenkins (former HBC executive director of Vertical Church Films)
  • Dan Sumpter (former executive director of Walk in the Word)
  • Garrett Higbee (former HBC executive director of Biblical Soul Care)
  • Sixth letter by Sandy Song, former HBC coordinator of mission and outreach, is not currently available.
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43 thoughts on “James MacDonald Accuses Harvest of Stealing $6.6 Million & Running “Campaign to Destroy My Reputation””

  1. Someone needs to write a book- Gaslighting, the preferred tactic of modern American leadership.” We live in a generation where men of power in the church and secular society alike think they can say anything, accuse anyone of anything without a shred of evidence, be believed, and get their way. Apparently they can. MacDonald’s lack of repentance is beyond stunning. It’s tragic for him and those who follow him. Sadly, so is the drama playing out on our national stage where many are ready to believe the accusation (which to date has not yet been backed with solid evidence) that multiple counties in multiple states currently under both democrat and republican leadership committed electoral fraud to throw the presidential election. God help us. We have lost the ability to separate fact from fiction in our willingness to follow personalities.

    1. Maybe MacDonald can find work as Trump’s personal pastor. The greed and narcissistic abuse of others never ends with these two. They deserve each other.

      1. Why troll your dislike of the President here? This is about James MacDonald and his lack of repentance. Pray that our President would repent of his past boorish behavior and act with humility.

        Might not hurt to continue pray for James’ repentance as well.

        1. Exactly, S. Why the heck would this dude, Don, bring Trump into the conversation? The election is over…time to put your Trump Derangement Syndrome to rest.

          1. Because eternal victimhood attracts a liberal following that prioritizes feelings over fetus.

            Was that too harsh of me?

    2. Fisher,

      Besides this not being a forum for your rant, it is also incorrect. The poll watchers were denied their civil rights to inspect 6 feet away. Many, many people have given affidavits already. If they had not been turned away there would be no federal civil rights cases. No matter what your affiliation I would hope you would want elections free of fraudulent behavior. Our democracy depends on honesty.

      1. There is no civil right to be a poll watcher, whether you’re six feet away or ten feet away. Substantial evidence of fraud will be examined by the courts. So far, none has been presented.

      2. Vance, I most certainly do support scrutiny of our polls and am heartened to hear that so far there is no credible evidence of widespread fraud. The attorney generals of Pennsylvania and Georgia are especially to be commended; they strengthen our democracy.

        At the same time I stand by my comment- a love of personalities is dangerous. It causes us to set aside sound judgement about what is right and wrong in order to support the personality we follow.

        According to many witnesses James MacDonald bullied people all the while helping himself to millions of donor dollars. People who experienced or saw his bad behavior testified later that they dealt with the disconnect by telling themselves, “But Harvest/James is doing so much good!” Yes, good was done along the way but it came at a very high price tag- thousands of donors defrauded, a church in deep debt to this day, hundreds of people wounded spiritually, and some people’s faith shipwrecked.

        I am uncertain what is inappropriate about making a connection between what happened with James MacDonald and our current national life. When we give any personality (a pastor, a business leader or a president) freedom to bully people and act inappropriately for their position -all under the rubrik of “but they did some good things” we bring harm to ourselves and many others beside. The end result are leaders like MacDonald who believe themselves to entitled and so untouchable they even blame those they harmed.

        1. Well said, Fisher. I agree with every word.
          I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we need to stop justifying unrighteous behavior for righteous reasons.

      3. Actually every frivolous lawsuit that the Trump lawyer’s brought to overturn the election have been soundly rejected by all of the judges. Trump is batting 0% in court. Trumps lawyers are so ashamed of their lawsuits that they are requesting that their evidence be sealed. The judges denied their motions. Can’t wait to Jan. 20 when Joe is president.

  2. Former Harvest Member

    Some interesting things:

    1. He dragged Dr. Michael Vanlaningham. Dr. V defended James in Jan 2019 in the Romans class he taught and called others “dissenters.” Dr. V also continued his Romans class with Landon MacDonald AFTER Landon resigned and James was fired.

    2. James suggests that Jeff Gill and Dave Stone sympathize and even agree with his narrative.

    3. That Jeff Thompson is being called out because Jeff continued to follow and like James and his family on social media after they left/were fired.

    1. I am now more concerned that Dave Stone was preaching at Harvest (as part of “guiding them through” these times) as early as a couple of months ago. Was he James MacDonald’s eyes and ears?

  3. James is correct that Jeff Smith needs to be held accountable for financial mismanagement–as do Bill Sperling, Steve Huston, and a cast of other characters.

  4. In C. S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce”, a man in hell reports that two men there went to look for Napoleon, presumably in hopes of having some good discussions with him. But they were disappointed. Napoleon did nothing but pace back and forth through the rooms of his isolated house. “The two chaps watched him for about a year and he never rested. And muttering to himself all the time. ‘It was Soult’s fault. It was Ney’s fault. It was Josephine’s fault. It was the fault of the Russians. It was the fault of the English.’ Like that all the time. Never stopped for a moment. A little, fat man and he looked kind of tired. But he didn’t seem able to stop it.”

  5. MacDonald himself headed up the “Campaign to destroy my(his) reputation.” Although he did receive considerable help from Mr. Pride and Mr. Greed.

  6. I guess James McDonald just will not, I repeat, will not go away and leave everybody alone. He really is quite delusional in that he actually believes he’s got a legitimate axe to grind, and of course he doesn’t. What really confuses me, is that James got everything he wanted as a result of the arbitration with HBC, and he still believes that he deserves more? And on top of that, the elder board currently in place did nothing with the tons of evidence they had against him to hold him legally accountable, along with those who aided and abetted him. The former church governess and the current church governess at HBC stinks. I never thought I would say these things about the church and the pastor I loved. It hurts, it really does, and the confusion and anger is something I’ve asked the Lord to help me with, for a long time now. Just when I think I’ve got it under control, James pops up with a new spear to throw. Again I say, why is it that he just won’t go away and leave everybody alone? Or is that a question that really doesn’t have an answer? I’m also curious as to why he put up his post and then removed it.

    1. On November 6, 2020 an article appeared announcing the retirement of Joe Stowell as Cornerstone Universities President. The article said that after Joe Stowell’s tenure at Moody Bible he was a teaching pastor at Harvest and then moved on to Cornerstone. His departure was rather abrupt along with that of his sons. The article said: “Stowell has never spoken publicly about his reasons for leaving Harvest. However, at the height of my investigation on Harvest and its former pastor, James MacDonald, Stowell’s son, Matt Stowell, wrote a open letter, detailing the “toxic,” “unholy,” and “dangerous” culture at Harvest.” James MacDonald’s pattern of abuse and misappropriation of funds is well documented and in all likelihood occurred while Joe Stowell was there. Whether he observed it first hand or not is certainly open to inquiry. With all the wonderful things said about Joe Stowell in the article about hsi retirement, I wonder how much heartache, shame and a “blackeye” on the church of Jesus Christ could have been spared had Dr. Stowell spoken up and confronted the wrong being done. I have a great deal of respect for Joe Stowell, but hard questions need to be answered.

      1. Douglas, before you cast stones at Dr. Stowell, he was required to sign a NDA. Stay focus on JimmyMac; the false teacher who continues to put his own interest above the church. Even if JimmyMac was wrong by others; Christ own example is to be followed. Jesus did not defend himself, was silent and no guile was found from His mouth. There is a peeing Pastor and JimmyMac is the greedy Pastor.

        1. No one is “required” to sign an NDA. People sign them to get something–usually money. But you can say no. Moody tried to get me to sign an NDA. I refused. I also spent most of my severance on a lawyer. But at least I’m not muzzled.

          1. Amen! James Montgomery Boice tells the story of a man who explained to Tertullian that while his job conflicted with Christian principles he really had no choice in the matter. “What can I do?” he said. “I must live.” To which Tertullian responded, “Must you?”

          2. Sorry to hear that. It s amazing that these fraudulant churches require NDA’s. If you are asked to sign, runnnnn.

  7. Here’s what all of you clearly don’t see: James MacDonald sees Harvest Bible Chapel as “HIS CHURCH!” Since he is the Founding Pastor, he believes that he should have never been fired, and in reading his letter, it is quite clear in asking all the Elders to resign, he is trying to see if a door can possibly be re-opened whereby he can return to his former position and title of Senior Pastor. I hope you guys get that. That’s what’s happening!

    1. @JimmyBobby – when I read that he pulled it down, my first impression was that he pulled it down because he claims to still be owed $6.6 million. That is an exorbitant amount for anyone – especially a “pastor” to be paid. That should be embarrassing.

      1. “6.6 million that belonged to WITW and it’s donors.” is different than 6.6 million that was owed direct to James in my book.

        I think James strategically posted just long enough for Julie to rush in and run it.

        Remember, he won arbitration a his statement makes it clear that Harvest was not helping him as many suggested might happen. There is real disagreement between these parties and at this point, after silence followed by and arbitration win, to discount James side of the story is foolish at best.

        People can hate the man but for those so interested in actually cleansing the church, James Macdonald’s perspective on the dirty dealings within MUST be considered.

        If not… People show their laser targeted hatred of a single man among a group of many that were playing games of self gain behind the tithe.

        1. @JimmyBobby – WITW IS James MacDonald. Yes, I do discount James’ side of the story because of individuals who have gone on record and entered written evidence that MacDonald has attempted to spin so much of his story with religious terminology. Example: “God led me to sue” Julie Roys et.al. and then when he found that he wasn’t going to be able to keep the Disclosure proceedings off the record, then “God led me not to sue.” Terrible thing that God was so confused! /sarc. And there are more illustrations of dishonesty which you can look up. And it sure does look like there are other people individuals who were in “leadership” that also need to be held accountable.

          1. I’m not defending James as much as I’m calling out the others.. I don’t give a rats ass if HBCs reason for burning thru 6.6 mil in donor funds was “so James can’t have it”. What’s wrong is wrong.

            Dallas, Bradshaw, Moe, George, Smith..

            All these clowns had angles. Not a 1 of which was the actual truth.

            All these goofs we running their own little games. Silent when it helped their cause.. Vocal when there was no choice or to further their version of the facts. Back room convos and I bet James has the emails to prove it.. And the lies, the slander. Yup.. Hate to break it to you but there are manipulative liars in every camp involved in this debacle.. Amazing how people will lie to themselves in order to fight evil with evil and call themselves good.. Amazing and PATHETIC.

            And where’s Fred Adams by the way..

            Wait for it..

            God will flatten all of it..

  8. To anyone who is surprised by all this, you really need to educate yourself on narcissism. Everything done by James has been done many times before and will continue to be done by others even after he has passed on. The behavior is classic and very highly predictable. It always continues until death so do not hold your breath waiting for some real repentance. The experts who work with this all the time will tell you so much. Narcissism is what it is.

    1. Mr. Jesperson,

      Before I came to your post I was thinking the same thing. I am no professional, but his behavior is classic narcissism. It also seems a bit like sociopath behavior as well. No self awareness and no empathy for others. Some have suggested that pastors in training should take psychological tests in order to bring awareness to these tendencies in christian leadership.

      1. In many denominations, pastors in training do undergo a psychological assessment. One of the weaknesses of non-denominational church systems is the lack of assessment and accountability.

        1. Yeah, they like to pretend that’s what elder councils are for, but in most of the problematic nondom churches they’re staffed by close allies, friends and relatives of the pastor, and some are even led by the pastor himself.

  9. Every time I read more about JM and his pride, I can’t help but think of Philippians 2 about how Jesus walked this earth with such humility.. Oh, to be like Him instead! May we all follow in HIS footsteps , , ,

    “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

  10. Are you kidding me?

    The beginning of my exit from HBC (I was about an 8 year member) was I went to a Men’s conference to hear Voddie Baucham speak and he was pulled that very day. He was in the building but James and VB agreed to disagree and we never had the privilege of hearing VB exposit the Word. From that point on I just continued to start seeing cracks in character that would fall under the moniker of “celebrity pastor”. The final straw for me was the lack of financial transparency. I expect as a “paying” member of the church that I should have FULL access to the financial workings of MY church. When it was apparent that even members of the ELDER board did not have full access to all the financial dealings of the church my tithe immediately dried up. Not even a drip. Unfortunately I have to say all of my financial giving has basically become a trickle to outside organizations. I have used my funds to support friends and family in need directly but to a church body of ministry, forget it. When I think that in a lot of ways JMac is the reason that myself and hundreds or thousands of others are no longer interested in financially supporting the Church it makes me so sad. The impact of that alone has such far reaching consequences that we will never be able to measure this side of Heaven. It has an internal impact and should make everyone of us understand that all our decisions have life long impact on others.

    A fitting verse that I am reminded of that was most likely in an excellent teaching that James delivered about the word NAME in the Scriptures: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,and favor is better than silver or gold. Proverbs 22:1 ESV

    1. I would encourage you to revisit your position. Read Philippians 4 and how Paul is grateful for the Philippian church and their investment in the Gospel so that you might also do the same. There are plenty of good churches, many smaller, that serve Christ and are transparent with the money and you have the opportunity of investing in the Gospel which has eternal significance.

      1. Agreed! Our church has three budget meetings every year, open to the whole congregation, before the budget is voted on and adopted. Every line item detailed. Budget committee asks for feedback and dissenting opinions. And there’s lots of support for missions, needy churches, etc. We are a little church that tries to be faithful with what we have.

  11. Good grief does anybody read their Bibles anymore? 1 Corinthians 6:5-8 – I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!

    Where is the fruit of the Spirit? Where is the longing for reconciliation? Where is the humility and repentance on both parts? What a mess we are in today church. What a mess…

  12. Ah, so now he’s reached the “burn it all down” point in his vendetta. He doesn’t care what happens to anyone else as long as he gets what he believes he’s owed.

    Kind of like what’s happening in the White House right now.

  13. A Nobody In The Eyes of this World

    Why are we supposed to care about this (no…I did not read the article or the comments)? This is nothing but Christian gossip. Is James Whoever a Christian celebrity? Maybe…I don’t know who he is. Stop caring about Christian superstars and their superstar congregations. SMH

    1. If only this “nobody” wasn’t still trying to prove he’s a “somebody” so he could still keep fleecing “everybody”.

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