James MacDonald

James MacDonald Suspends New Home Church Network

By Julie Roys

Seven months after launching a Home Church Network (HcN) for those who “struggle to get to church or to stay in church,” former celebrity pastor, James MacDonald, is suspending the program.

According to an announcement at his website, MacDonald will pause HcN “for a minimum of 8 weeks.” Then in mid-November, HcN plans to reconnect with its leaders and their group members to announce HCN’s plans “for the new year.”

“Like many of you, after carrying an extended heavy burden these long months, our team is in need of margin to regroup and strengthen our ministry platforms,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald added that funding for HcN is “running at a deficit” and creating services and managing other responsibilities associated with the ministry “has been daunting at times.”

James & Kathy MacDonald
James & Kathy MacDonald

MacDonald also said that many HcN leaders who had planned to lead groups this fall have concerns about launching their groups under COVID restrictions.

Last February, MacDonald announced his new HcN ministry and promised to provide “new teaching . . . exclusive to HcN members” for use in home groups. MacDonald also promised worship from “some of the most loved and widely appreciated worship leaders in the world.”

His website now encourages HcN leaders to glean through MacDonald’s archived messages to construct weekend services during the hiatus.

At the time MacDonald launched his Home Church Network, he was in arbitration with Harvest Bible Chapel for ownership of Walk in the Word, McDonald’s former broadcast ministry. The arbitration also reportedly dealt with issues surrounding MacDonald’s dismissal by Harvest in February 2019.

Over the summer, MacDonald settled with Harvest and both parties agreed to a Protective Order, keeping the details of the settlement confidential.

It appears MacDonald won the rights to Walk in the Word as many of his former messages are now available on his podcast and YouTube channel.

Questions also have been raised about whether MacDonald received a cash payout as part of the settlement.

In July, Chicago-based Republic Bank filed a foreclosure lawsuit against MacDonald, claiming that MacDonald had not made a mortgage payment since December 2019. However, around the time of the settlement, the listing on MacDonald’s home was removed.

Last year, the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel disqualified MacDonald from public ministry, saying his behavior did not meet biblical standards. The church also conducted an audit, which found that MacDonald had misused millions in church funds.

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10 thoughts on “James MacDonald Suspends New Home Church Network”

  1. Thank you for posting this Julie. Like all of the other fallen celebrity pastors, James has already declared that he is getting right back into ministry. So documenting lapses in integrity for the new, improved James MacDonald remains important.

    James announced this new program back on February 5, 2020, about 8 months ago. At that time he used an old marketing ploy stating only the select few, quality applicants would be accepted into his elite training program. This technique is used to create demand by hucksters on late-night infomercials and puppy mills. He claimed he had 4 beta groups ready to start putting the new HcN program into practice. By April, James had bagged the whole elite applicant program, and was now saying that it was open to anyone and was free of charge.

    James’ has kept this new announcement on the DL, btw. While actively promoting his “brand new podcasts” (another lie) and devotional subscription series on Twitter & Instagram, he buries putting HcN on hiatus, deep inside his website, with no other announcement. Why is that?

    James claimed that the Lord God Almighty spoke HcN into existence. God told James to provide this “alternative” to those who feel “large churches present complicating logistics & often negatively affect Christian relationships” so his new flock could have “all the impact of a large church, but none of the drama.” James has now changed the rules for this new improved form of church he sold his new flock on. His Thursday night training sessions are gone. His weekend services are gone. His providing “some of the most loved and widely appreciated worship leaders in the world” is gone.

    Members recruited family members and friends to help them launch their new home churches with the expectation and promises that James would be providing them with a home church program. Now without any warning or even cause, James has pulled all of this away in the run-up to Holy Season. They will now have no weekly service for Thanksgiving. Nothing for Advent. No Christmas Eve. No Christmas Day. No New Years Day. James has left them with NO SERVICES for the next 3.5 months? Yet he disingenuously refers to this as an 8 week delay. And that 3.5 month delay is the minimum delay.

    James excuse for refusing to honor his shepherding commitments?
    First, is the excuse that he hasn’t received enough money from HcN members. From a program he claims was free. How exactly is HcN running a deficit if it was never designed to be a “pay to play” program?

    In James’ most recent court documents he had to admit to what his real annual pay package at HBC was. He claims, in a sworn statement to the court, that his total comp at HBC was $2.7M a year!!! $2.7M a year! Plus he walked away with $125,000 in cash and approx $2.5M in deferred compensation last month, plus the entire revenue stream and assets for WITW. With that kind of massive wealth, he is cancelling all services for the next 3.5 months minimum because he feels he hasn’t brought in enough on HcN? Why should members believe he will bring it back at all in 2021, if one of his top concerns is they aren’t bringing in enough money? Either James will have to start charging for HcN services, or he’ll have to cut the program, because this particular issue will not self resolve. Has this been his plan all along? To get groups invested in HcN then claim every week is now pay to play because otherwise he’s “running a deficit”? So the groups either pay in or they are left high and dry?

    He also cites his and Kathy’s “weariness” brought on by their “overwhelming pace”. James and Kathy left for Florida for their winter vacation back in December 2018. That vacation went on for about 4 months. He then went back to Illinois to do…. nothing. He was not preaching. He was not teaching. He was not writing. His sons moved to other states so he wasn’t even playing with the grandkids. He then purchased an RV and went to vacation in Southern California and Phoenix, both premiere snowbird destinations. He did preach 7 sermons out of a series of 8 while in SoCal, but the rest of his days were filled with what? He claimed he was so bored during the pandemic that he drove to Carlsbad, CA to see Carlsbad Caverns. Yeah… the ones in NM. That’s pretty bored. If being unemployed, puttering around the mansion, FL vacay home and the RV for 19 consecutive months is what he considers a wearying, overwhelming pace, how will he ever fulfill his role at HcN?

    He also blames the pandemic, but in reality, most states are allowing small group get togethers inside personal residences. Enforcement of any such rule would also be impractical. Home churches are intended to be very small intimate gatherings. This is also not a new factor to James. He was fine with it for the last several months. He only mentions it now that he has his large cash settlement and the legal right to go after WITW donors. He doesn’t really need what little he was picking up cash-wise on HcN, which is why it is no longer a priority.

    Anyone seriously considering following James on this or a different endeavor, should consider that this is how he treats his followers. Nothing has changed for this man. He is only concerned about his own self interests. To pull services away during the Holidays is unconscionable. He is also the man who has SUED FIVE of his own flock members and is looking to go after more. Why would anyone take a chance on such a petty vindictive man who believes he is entitled to an annual pay package of $2.7M and is wiling to hire teams of attorneys to go after anyone who questions him? Withholding holiday services from members is the least of the damage this man is capable of inflicting.

    If readers know of anyone considering HcN, please urge them to reconsider. James is not acting honorably or like a shepherd.

  2. Some more things – “home church” is now off because he says it’s off. Bigger than God to shut up heavens like brass. When my mate was told our “animators” were scrapping our group to restart again, he walked out, because he thought it ought to be up to God (I wish he had jogged my elbow that time). The expense in doing this properly is approximately zero. Open your Bibles and read out from it and talk and pray. James reckons he can base everybody on exclusive material. Divorced from reality so that his trapped prey I mean customers would be unable to find reference points, and he would “enjoy” exclusive claim to “submission” on their entire lives. Thus why would any one be interested in any concept with “harvest”, “word”, “walk”, “network, “church” or “home” in the brand name? (Similar problem to the terrible trail of “gates” “cities” “frontiers” “new lives” and “graces” that stretches behind me.)

  3. ** “Like many of you, after carrying an extended heavy burden these long months, our team is in need of margin to regroup and strengthen our ministry platforms,” MacDonald said. **

    What does that mean in English?

    1. It means “this new gig isn’t cash flowing and I just got a big settlement from my former church, why should I even exert the minimal amount of effort to produce online ministry content.

      Another commenter made a great point, if you are concerned about attending church services at this point just about every local church is streaming their services. A few weeks ago I joined a Bible study that’s held over Zoom.

  4. So God “spoke” HcN into being and then didn’t supply the funds? That’s contradictory to the God of the Bible — he is not going to call anyone to start something and then not supply the resources. This is just more religious sounding talk.

  5. Why would anyone wanting to have house church even consider needing a leader like JMac? You can take the “pastor” out of the CEO led mega church but you cant take the CEO out of this “pastor”

  6. The HcN ministry needed time to regroup? Try working in a school. Our “regroup” time was delaying the start of school for a week, to be sure we had sanitation and other practices ready. That was after extensive work by our restart team during the summer planning for in person school.

    If someone wants home groups or home based church, they should contact a good local church to inquire about home groups already available. The local church will almost certainly be led by a sound, God fearing, Biblically based pastor.

    Time for American evangelicals to wean ourselves off of mega celebrities and support good local churches!

    – Greg

  7. Is it just me, or...

    I hate to say it, but wasn’t the pandemic the perfect time for an idea like the HCN? If it’s not working, maybe it has nothing to do about the structure and everything to do about the leader.

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