Video: James MacDonald’s “Repentance” Doesn’t Appear to Meet Standard He Expressed in Sermons

By Julie Roys
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One of the hallmarks of true repentance is whether a person volunteers his confession. “Or,” in the words of former Harvest Bible Chapel pastor, James MacDonald, “did he just get caught?” These words of wisdom, which MacDonald uttered in a 2017 sermon, seem ironic given MacDonald’s “Repentance” expressed yesterday in a Facebook post

MacDonald was fired in February after a vulgar “hot mic” recording of his was aired on Macow Muller’s Chicago radio show. This came after numerous articles alleged that MacDonald bullied his staff, elders and their wives; displayed a pattern of deception; and misused church funds.

MacDonald’s apology came after eight months of silence, which MacDonald said he needed “to see the Lord’s hand, see my sin fully and speak about it non-defensively.”

Below are several clips from MacDonald’s sermon, which have since been removed from the internet.

JAMES MACDONALD: “When the news comes out that Person A has been living differently than everyone thought–they’ve plunged their life and their family into ruin and destruction–this is the first question that everyone wants answered: ‘Now, did she volunteer this? Or did she get found out?'”

JAMES MACDONALD: “Every time they’re like, ‘Did he come forward with this? Or did he get caught?’ Now, the reason why everyone wants to know this is because the river of, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m sorry,’ that your ability to discern whether that is God-honoring, ‘I’m sorry for my sin toward God, I’m sorry for how I’ve affected others.’ That’s hard to discern from, the legit from the, ‘I’m sorry I got caught. I’m sorry, I look bad.’ And a lot of times, when you get to the bottom of it, the person would have kept on forever if there hadn’t been some consequences to it.”

James MacDonald: “And many people here, across our church, have made choices that they regret. But the only reason you regret it is because of the fallout that happened from it.”

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39 thoughts on “Video: James MacDonald’s “Repentance” Doesn’t Appear to Meet Standard He Expressed in Sermons”

  1. I’ll up you one on this after agreeing: repentance designed to permit restoration is not repentance either. Is James repenting so he can now be restored to a pastoral office at his new church in Chicagoland? I say Yes.

  2. I do hope James MacDonald does indeed gets restored to Christian fellowship. But should he be out there teaching and preaching and participating in Christian Leadership? The NT books of 1 Timothy and Titus clearly say “NO”. James should not be preaching or teaching because he does not meet the Biblical qualifications of an Elder. That is what the Bible teaches.

  3. Perhaps it is time to move on from this story. McDonald has been removed from the church he started and is thoroughly disgraced. We are to be fishers of men and to share the gospel with a lost world. God is his judge and He is highly capable of doing His job.

    1. I’m struggling with this too.

      Julie you have done a phenomenal job. It has been important to bring these things to light. I wish I could have come to the RESTORE conference.

      But now with each new story I feel retrauamatized in a sense. Every time there is another bombshell with outrageous, abusive, sinful behavior there seems to be no earthly justice, no accountability, no arrest. There even seems to be lots of James worshipers who just want to pretend it never happened, don’t care it happened or rush to “forgiveness” not caring about how many people his leadership tried to destroy. And then another church welcomes him and he is encouraged to start again. I’m all for biblical restoration, but it’s obvious that hasn’t happened.

      To compound this my own church, a Harvest Chicago offshoot, has the same DNA hallmarks. Less than transparent leadership, intimidation, questionable financial practices, pressuring people for money and compliance, staff leaving or transitioning a lot, etc. And nothing is changing. People rave about the church. I’m glad if they are making a connection with the Lord, but again, every time there is a new story here about outrage it just makes me feel hopeless.

      I know. Jesus will hold these leaders to account. Justice may not come until Jesus returns. God is aware.

      I suppose I need to totally stop following these stories, but I want to be informed. I realize God has probably called this blog to be like a prophetic calling out of leaders.

      If there can be a category of articles like “Signs of unhealthy and healthy churches” that would be helpful. Maybe some more stories of people who have overcome church abuse like Lina Abujamra. Something to help so many of us heal. We’re not denying the hurt and don’t want to be ignorant of what the enemy is doing, but we don’t want to stay stuck. I fear a movement like this could become like political talk radio that is only outrage.

      So thanks Julie for what you are already trying to do with RESTORE and other efforts to balance out the outrage. There will be so many people who don’t care (God said there would be these days where people don’t care about sound doctrine) but the rest of us need to keep taking steps forward.

    2. I understand your sentiments. The only reason I keep reporting on new developments is because James is relaunching at another megachurch in Chicago (New Life Covenant). So many people there seem totally unaware of who James really is and what he’s done. Believe me, I’d like to move on from this story as much as you would.

      1. Julie Roys, Thank you for exposing this unfortunate case. I do not know the senior pastor nor really know who you are. It is important as you correctly stated to continue to expose this case because of his desire to continue to lead others. I can be a devil’s advocate and go into philosophical debate as to forgive and let him serve as a minister etc. This is not my desire at this time.
        What I wanted to share with you was to let you know that I subscribed to your ” news” because your articles appear to be authentic and down to earth. I had attended church for years and seen many, many types of abuses all in the name of ” working for the Lord.” I have been an ” Expat” and done 6 months as a MD in Africa and learn with regret and shame how ” Power ” does corrupt.
        My last straw was with ” house church.” Your reader may or may not have experience with house church. They are great! However, it does have a significant drawback.
        Just wanted to drop a line to say…keep up the good work, sharing your thoughts with others, continue to Love the Lord and He will surely bless you and your love ones and those that you touch.
        Blessings

        Eric

  4. Just as Jesus taught about the Pharisees, do as they say not as they do. That’s the best advice when listening to the video clips. Matthew 23::

  5. Incredible hypocrisy of this man. Seen it so many times in so many Churches. Including mine. Bad Pastors and Teachers simply go into new Churches or simply start new Churches of long time followers. Or that so many Christians are so gullible and willing to accept a Charismatic, Good Speaker, Flim Flam, Sham, Con Artist, Snake Oil Salesman type Preacher. Those who question the merits of these types are often accused of Legalism or Lack of Graciousness or being Divisive. Sometimes it is not really the Church Membership but, the Leadership Team itself who become so desperate that they are willing to accept anyone into a Pastor or Leadership role. But, yet will reject those who may not be attractive or charismatic enough to satisfy a desire to appeal to younger generations who will never go to Church anyway. It is sickening!

  6. See Thomas Watson’s book called The Doctrine of Repentance (http://www.onthewing.org/user/Watson%20-%20Repentance%20-%20Modern.pdf) If any of these 6 marks are not present, the repentance is not real.
    When ones says he was and still is “very sorry for the careless and hurtful words that were illegally recorded and publicized.” one is not truly sorry because he is trying to save face by claiming it was illegally recorded as if that issue has any relevance or redeeming qualitities.
    Conclusion: His repentance is not real. MacDonald is a Spiritual wolf – a fraud.

  7. I don’t understand people’s thought on confession vs being caught. David was caught by Nathan and Psalm 51 is the result. David was keeping everything a secret until Nathan confronted him. Jesus forgave the woman CAUGHT in the act of adultery. Semantics don’t matter to God. James was full of it when he taught his teaching.
    You should see his FB page apology responses. It is disgusting how gullible some Christians want to be. 99% seem ready to sit under his ministry again and wanting him back on the radio.

    II Timothy 4:3 is evident.

  8. Things that make you go HRMM… ???

    James’s confession, of repentance, for one.

    What I discern about it is what he says here:

    “That’s hard to discern from, the legit from the, ‘I’m sorry I got caught. I’m sorry, I look bad.’ And a lot of times, when you get to the bottom of it, the person would have kept on forever if there hadn’t been some consequences to it.””

    And his smacks of the unlegit latter vs the “legit” former.

    Anyone’s who’s read Scripture knows how NASTY Israel could act (Judges, Ezekiel) but He still loved Her.

    Likely James is a legit believer, he has done NASTY things (no kidding!) and the Lord loves him still.

    He (The Lord) desires true repentance. It is my desire and prayer the Holy Spirit would sear James so he’d deal with those sins truly and really understand what He means when He says
    “You are Loved.”

    Amen.

    About the new church James is attending, it is an Assemblies of God Church. (See ag.org)

    Compared to the strictly evangelical stream of HBC, Assembly trof God churches are more open to the charismatic stream of the Holy Spirit.

    We shall see. Ravish them, o Lord. Amen.

  9. Julie: grateful for your reporting. Thank you for airing publicly Dr Lina Abujamra’s speech. She really “hit the Nail with the Hammer” when she spoke about “Hit and Run” pastors. “Hit and Run” pastors fleece a church and leave broken relationships in their wake…..only to later pop up at a different church with no accountability and no Integrity which causes pain to the body of Christ. Because of your website, slowly..over time…….people may be raising the standard and asking new questions about Discernment and Accountability for Leadership…..questions that have Not been raised in a ……long time. I think James is surprised by this because he never foresaw the Fallout coming because he probably knows personally many “Hit and Run” pastors as well on a personal basis……I do not know that for a fact, but it is just an opinion of mine. Anyway, thank you for raising the standard and causing the Body of Christ to wake up out of our spiritual slumber of Apathy and lethargy regarding Holiness and accountability issues. We need to raise the Standard . The body of Christ needs to ask questions about Biblical Discernment !!

  10. Nothing really surprises me. To me, this is beyond guys like James and Driscoll. Instead of a man, look at systemic, American Christianity. I don’t see it as just Biblical illiteracy, but maybe worse. Maybe it’s because, if we’re honest, most people just don’t care. We all get as much of God as we want. Pastors DO, like million dollar sports figures, because they CAN.
    I left HBC to end up at another church, which I left for what I called “soft soap” Christianity, to find out recently the pastor moved into a 700k+ house.
    Now on my 2nd church post HBC, I finally found what I think, hope, pray, reluctantly enjoy, as a Bible and God honoring church (EVFREE of Crystal Lake). I feel God is allowing all this to get his true followers off milk, into churches that are feeding us the meat of discipleship.
    This morning Pastor Jay Childs of EVFEE stands up and says, “Please open your Bibles and STAND as we read and honor God’s word.” What a breath of fresh air. But believe me, “fool me twice”, I’m not there for Jay or thinking he will never falter, but I’m willing to keep focusing my eyes on the prize, finishing the race as the things and people of God fall all around us.

  11. MacDonald, like his buddy Mark Driscoll are ‘sorry’ they got caught. But, that’s just a minor bump in the road as they both continue their narcissistic-fueled , sociopathic quests for fame and money! Truly pathetic.

  12. Sometimes it is impossible to know immediately whether repentance is genuine or not. That is one of the reasons that a period of time should elapse between the proffer of repentance and the offer of restoration in order to discern whether there has been a true change of behavior and attitude or if the same behavior and characteristics are continuing. If there is no change following the statement of repentance, then the authenticity of the repentance can be called into question. On the other hand, if there is a noticeable shift in behavior and attitude over that period of time, then the possibility of the repentance being genuine is increased.

    My hope and prayer is that this is a statement of true repentance and that the coming days/weeks/months will show a humility and brokenness in his life in order to restore him in the future. As egregious as some of the behavior has been he is desperately loved by our Lord Who desires James to be fashioned after the image of His Son. Let’s pray that our wise and merciful God will use these circumstances to accomplish His great will in James MacDonald’s life so he can be another example of the power of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of deeply flawed people.

  13. There are so many scriptures warning us about wolves in the pulpit yet Christians just will not believe them. Everyone who is a pastor or teacher is not saved. The Bible tells us so. There are many false prophets and teachers among us. Look out for them and flee from them when you see them. Don’t waste time trying to pray them into repentance or hoping they change their ways. Walk away from them. Some Christians think that they can be more benevolent, exercise more grace, and be more loving than God himself. Teachers are held to a much higher standard than others and will be judged more harshly. The Bible tells us so. There is proof MacDonald asked someone to murder people he felt had crossed him. He stole money believers gave to the ministry and used it for himself. Worse of all he has absolutely refused to take any responsibility for what he’s done and has positioned himself to continue deceiving Christians. These are the actions, thoughts, and behaviors of an evil, psychopathic person. Yet you have people ignoring all he’s done and railing at those exposing him and those speaking out about how he’s harmed them. Amazing.

    To the former member who posted that there has been little to no earthly justice, please take heart. God is not mocked. This false teacher will be dealt with sooner or later. He is literally continuing to add fuel to his own fire. God is patient, kind, loving, and merciful even to the likes of James MacDonald. However, as MacDonald continues to shun the repentance process outlined in the Bible he’s inching closer and closer to falling into the hands of the living God. That is not some place any human being should ever want to be. However, it is MacDonald’s choice to continue on as he’d doing. He will reap the consequences. He will either humble himself or God will do it for him. You don’t have to worry that he’s gotten away with something because he hasn’t. I’ve seen so many false teachers in various churches over the years. Sooner or later they are all exposed and sooner or later God’s hand of judgement falls on them. Then they’re gone–just like that. When that happens everything they’ve lied, cheated, stolen, and abused other for turns to dust. In 2 Timothy 4:14 Paul spoke of the great harm that Alexander had done to him and remarked that the Lord will repay him. It will be the same with James MacDonald. The Lord sees it all and he will repay. Put your faith and trust in the Lord and the Lord only. Then you won’t be disappointed by man when he goes astray.

  14. rj not in chicago anymore

    i have not posted here before but have been following this saga for a very long time – initially through the Elephant’s Debt (Ryan Mahoney’s blog). Not to go into detail but it has been a mess for a very long time at Harvest – I left 2011 when it was first revealed about the massive building debt the Elgin facility had. Never looked back – but I have to wonder of the 150 or so Harvest plants – what else is occuring in them. The betrayal and pain must be quite broad me thinks. Like Lina noted in her statement – the latent infection crops up when we least suspect it and it spreads quietly by a carrier / carriers who continue to spread dis-ease, unaware of the harm they are spreading. Levitical law addressed this.

    Three things come to mind – First, the scripture teaches ‘out of the mouth comes what resides in the heart’ – the hot mike issue confirmed this. Second, many times J Mac would say from pulpit “choose to sin, choose to suffer.” Confirmed again. And third, J Mac would say “Don’t get between the hammer and the work.” I would suggest that many near to James simply get out of the way before the hammer falls lest you get smashed in the process.

  15. I believe there is a name for a person that teaches one thing but is leaving a different lifestyle, a “hypocrite”. James should be nowhere near the pulpit. And everyone at Covenant Church should be aware of that. I had been a member of Harvest for 15 years (not anymore). James does not live what he preaches.

  16. MacDonald: “That’s hard to discern from, the legit from the, ‘I’m sorry I got caught. I’m sorry, I look bad.’”

    Ironic, that in his case, it’s astoundingly easy to discern it’s “sorry I got caught,” given he accuses others of illegally recording him, right off the bat.

    “I would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for that meddling DJ…”

  17. To be a little more charitable, you have to remember that many of his supporters have sunk a lot of time and money into following James MacDonald’s career, and no doubt most of them were never exposed to the dark side of his character, and find it near impossible to believe that he could have behaved so badly.

    If nothing else, MacDonald was and remains a highly charismatic preacher, who knows how to move people to tears and touch people’s hearts with his preaching, so if he did start a new church in Chicago, he knows full well that he would instantly fill a reasonable-sized auditorium with people who want their old James MacDonald back, and it will only take a few vague words of regret to win them over.

    That’s human nature. It’s hard to turn away from something or someone we are emotionally invested in. Just ask any woman who stays in an abusive relationship.

  18. Interesting comment by JMac on his Instgram page – Someone asked about some old sermons and of course he said he didn’t have access to them, as they were “held by the church and part of arbitration”.

    In a follow-up to that messageJMac made the following “When the new web site launches, it will be there all digital-all free-all the time”

  19. Jesus had his harshest words for religious leaders. He really didn’t rebuke anyone else consistently, but he excoriated religious hypocrites. As painful and unpleasant as this ongoing story may be, I think we too should expose hypocrisy and follow Christ’s example. Keep up the good work Julie.

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