MacDonald Fundraising While on a Sabbatical from his Sabbatical

update button 29 jan 2019On 23 January 2019, The Elephant’s Debt became aware of a fundraising letter that James and Kathy MacDonald sent to Walk in the Word “Change Partners.”  While we could spend more than a little time dissecting large portions of this letter (as we have been prone to do in the past), it seems to us that there are really only three central features of the letter that need to be discussed in detail.

First.  At the end of 2018, James MacDonald announced that he was taking a sabbatical in Naples, FL where he would would be working on a new book and preaching at the new Naples campus.  In the aftermath of the lawsuit, the Harvest Elders announced that James would be placed on an “indefinite sabbatical,” [1] while being allowed to continue to preach at the Naples campus.  Within days, they changed tack again and this time announcing that MacDonald’s “indefinite sabbatical” would also preclude him from any leadership or preaching (at any campus).  In his own words, MacDonald said this:

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 … Please pray that this welcomed time of sabbatical rest will lead to needed changes in me and a fresh opportunity to reconcile with others in God’s time.

Given the apparent need to set aside both writing and preaching to focus on this “fresh opportunity to reconcile with others,” why is MacDonald sending fundraising letters to “Change Partners?” 

Second, in this fundraising letter, MacDonald indicates that “Change Partners” will soon be able to see the Walk in the Word financial page, which will include, among other things, Walk in the Word form 990s.  This is a significant statement that may point to notable changes that are coming.  For readers who are unfamiliar with the US tax code, a form 990 is a financial disclosure form that is required to be filed by all registered non-profit organizations under US tax law.  Walk in the Word used to file a standard 990 form each year until 2011.  At that time, Walk in the Word was brought under the umbrella of Harvest Bible Chapel as a church ministry.  This change in status altered their legal obligations with regards to the filing of form 990.  Now, they were able to file 990-EZs, which do not reveal nearly as much information about financial matters as the full standard 990.  Therefore, the fact that MacDonald has announced that “Change Partners” will be able to see Walk in the Word 990s, complete with “monthly incomes and expenditures” may be evidence that MacDonald is spinning off Walk in the Word from Harvest Bible Chapel while he is on leave. As always, the situation is highly fluid and we will update you as more information becomes available.

There is another reason this situation may be significant.  Put simply, this situation may be mirroring the Mark Driscoll / Mars Hill collapse of 2014.  As you may recall, as the internal and external pressure upon Driscoll were reaching their fever peak, Driscoll (who is a close friend of MacDonald’s [2]) took a “break” from teaching as the church investigated the various charges being levied against their pastor.  Driscoll took this break in August of 2014.  Within less than two months of taking a “break,” Driscoll returned to the church to announce that he was “resigning” in October 2014.  Just two months, Driscoll had launched a new website; and now was claiming all of his back catalog of sermons as his own intellectual property.

So the question we have to ask is this: is James MacDonald attempting to spin off Walk in the Word from Harvest Bible Chapel?  And if so, is he doing this in preparation for a coming departure? 


[1]  This is not the first the first “mandated” leave that the Elders have required of MacDonald.  More coming this afternoon.

[2] MacDonald and Driscoll are so close that MacDonald used to serve on Dricoll’s oversight board.  Later, in either 2016 or 2017, MacDonald used HBF funds to give Driscoll’s church a $50,000 gift.



11 thoughts on “MacDonald Fundraising While on a Sabbatical from his Sabbatical

  1. WITW 2018 Receipts $8,100,000
    35% Broadcast Airtime

  2. J A N UA RY 2 6 – 27, 2 0 1 9

    Need for January $1,920,000
    Received in January $1,033,520

    Pledged $29,467,800
    Received to date $3,047,060

    Click to access 190127-Sermon-Notes-Chicago.pdf

  3. “devote my entire energy to understanding and addressing these recurring patterns” sounds nothing like repentance.

    Once again, this is about James self-centered, egotistical, narcissism and not about the people he has targeted, hurt, injured or damaged.

    1. And he’s not devoting his entire energy to it either! Not unless he’s invoking some mysterious gestalt and bending the rules of physics.

  4. JMac is probably gonna spin off WITW and all of the intellectual property for himself. Note that it was funded by Harvest. Wondering Eagle posted that sources have told him that JMac is in negotiations to exit Harvest.

  5. I’m reading all these posts wondering what the potential outcome may be? I don’t really see any accountability or change anywhere. Not just the HBC machine, but other ministries too. No one talks about Hybels, Driscoll or for that matter…TD Jakes, or the king of heresy Joel Osteen. Life just continues on and the money rolls in. It’s so much bigger than James

  6. Do any of the actions of Harvest Bible Chapel by elders or pastors rise to the level of criminal conduct as related to fraud; fraudulent accounting practices; misappropriation of church funds ? Asking for a friend 😁.

  7. “Devoting my entire energy…” to do a Driscoll, take 2, looks like from here. Hope those elderly Change Partners don’t get wind of his pleasant comments toward them. 😝😝😝

  8. J Mac promoted the fact that every dollar given to “Walk In The Word” would be used for airtime. Turn out airtime means a herd of deer at Camp Harvest . Seems to me that’s fraud.

  9. The Least of These January 29, 2019 — 12:49 pm

    I received that email and saved it… found it quite interesting since they are going digital. Why the need for a fundraiser? Hmmm…

    1. Great question and appropriate. Surely HBC has an in-house production facility.

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