Reconnecting with Our Partners

To our friends and partners:

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, from Pastor James and Kathy MacDonald.

It has been far too long since we connected, now more than 20 months. During this time, we have longed to contact you, expressing why you have not heard from us and how our Lord has been preparing us for the next phase of our calling.

Please allow me to update you by answering some of the questions we hear most frequently…

1) How is the MacDonald family?

By the grace of God, we are strong in the Lord, firmly rooted in Him and our loving family. We are undeterred in our love for Christ and His Word.

MacDonald Family October 2020

2) But how are you and Kathy?  

Candidly, Kathy and I are still quite broken and remain in counseling, seeking to own, process, understand, and heal. This past weekend our family was wonderfully together for the first time since mid-2019, to celebrate my 60th birthday. There are still times of unhealthy rumination, shock, disbelief, and grief over the church family we lost. Yet there are also increasing days of hope and expectation in the Lord’s call to continue in ministry to His people. This has been especially true since a successful arbitration with our former church confirmed with finality where the truth has been all along. Soon we must bring those truths to light, but for now we continue under the weight of so much falsehood in hope that the church will themselves initiate the needed steps of public confession.

3) Can you be more specific about matters between you and Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC)?  

Now that we are “post arbitration,” we’re praying that HBC leaders would be entirely forthcoming with the church we loved for so long. (We would welcome publication of the entire arbitration transcript.) Please pray for the needed transparency, and for HBC to publicly:

I apologize if that is more than you wanted to know, but it gives you a feel for where we have been living and what we have endured, as my intellectual property and fully-vested pension were withheld in an effort to force our acceptance of WITW’s destruction.

Please pray that HBC leaders begin welcoming our reconciliation efforts. Our hope is for a joint statement owning what they have done, that ends the stonewalling and prevents having to clear our own name – a biblical but last option. After 20 months, we are just days away from that decision. Please pray with us that church leaders will finally yield and make peace, so the church itself is not further injured by the many deceptions. We have simply reached the end of our ability to carry all of this alone.

4) Can you talk about where you failed, James? 

Yes – Harvest Bible Chapel was blessed with what could be seen as success over many years, but since early 2017, I struggled increasingly under the weight of it all. I stepped away from the ministry multiple times with Elder support to regain my health and capacity to lead. In the end, I just burnt out, and had to “pull over” for extended time away from ministry. I had carried too much for too long, and I am grieved by the impact that had on several good leaders working most closely with me. Three times in 2019, I confessed my role in those relational failings to the board in writing, and multiple times publicly. Most difficult in all of this has been the loss of long term friends who apparently believed HBC leaders’ narrative and cut us off completely, refusing our efforts to communicate with them regarding the truth. We covet your prayers toward softening hearts for all, protection against bitterness, and healing – especially where rejection by those who might have known better has, at times, been too much to bear.

5) What is God’s call for you and Kathy going forward?  

Kathy and I knew, even before we were engaged to be married more than 40 years ago, that God was calling me to preach His Word. My call to preach came in response to a powerful sermon I heard in 1978, on Word of Life Island in New York. I made this calling public before my home church on November 12, 1979. Then in our first church on September 28-29, 1985 (two months before Luke was born), about 40 local ministers gathered at my pastor’s invitation and sat for a day to hear the story of my conversion, call to ministry, and doctrinal statement. Afterward they questioned me intensely, then voted unanimously to recognize the call of God on my life. The next day, pastors came from across the region gathering to lay hands on me in prayer. This was a solemn moment, my ordination service to ‘the gospel ministry of Jesus Christ.’ “Do not neglect the gift that is in you through the laying on of hands” (1Timothy 4:14).

6) Are you remaining in God’s call upon your lives? 

Yes, we are. Preachers often debate the biblical nature of a “call to ministry.” Is it for all believers, or only a select few? Paul was called directly by Jesus while still persecuting Christians (Acts 9). Peter was called while while fishing (Matthew 4:18), then Christ affirmed Peter’s call again at a seaside breakfast immediately after denying the Lord (John 21:17). Some will argue that all the saved are saved to ministry. True, Ephesians 2:10 does state that we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, that God has foreordained us to walk in,” but later Ephesians 4:11 instructs that God calls and gifts “pastors and teachers” to “build up the saints for works of ministry.”

All Christ followers are commanded to service in God’s family. However, that must not be confused with those who receive a Holy Spirit gifting and “call to ministry” leadership in Christ’s church – especially when that call has been carefully confirmed by others who are similarly called by the Lord.

7) How have these events impacted your calling from the Lord?

In 1986, the Lord called me to Chicago for seminary, and in 1988, He confirmed that Chicago was to be a lifetime calling. That calling has not changed, and we have carefully considered the best stewardship of our calling for the future, through extended conversations with multiple Senior Pastors in Chicago and beyond, whose counsel has been healing and helpful. Through it all the Lord has confirmed that no group of critics, most we’ve never met, can declare my calling completed or “disqualified.” Paul faced this with the Corinthian church declaring emphatically: “By ourselves we are not qualified to claim that anything comes from us. Rather, our credentials come from God, who has also qualified us to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).

The shamings from our former church (11 public statements in 2019, with the final pronounced 10 months after we were gone) have surely given me pause and a ton of reflection. But we are not deterred, finding comfort in this promise: “The gifts and callings of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). 

8) Then what is ahead for the MacDonalds? 

For now, we are writing after so many tears, wanting to connect and to assure you we are not bitter toward anyone. We are excited to get on to the rebuilding of Walk in the Word, and strongly desirous of beginning afresh the ministry partnership we once shared with you. We want you to be confident of our fidelity to Christ, His Word, and the foundation we laid together. We have been excited for you to learn of our determination to rebuild Walk in the Word in the Lord’s timing, and of our growing enthusiasm for this sizable task.

Looking to the future, Kathy and I have covenanted, Lord willing:

  1. We will serve in the strength of the lessons we have learned and the repentance in relational matters we have expressed.
  2. I am excited to return to an exclusive focus on using the gift of preaching God has given to me.
  3. We intend to base our future ministry in the Chicago area, supporting church planters and existing local churches as the Lord leads.
  4. We have established the Home Church Network (HcN) for those who (by virtue of health, geography, or employment circumstance) are unable to attend a Bible-preaching church in person. (See our HcN update for more information about our intent to continue building HcN, post-Covid restrictions.)
  5. I look forward to engaging with and mentoring next-generation Bible expositors – through Better Biblical PreachingSeminars, group and individual coaching will undergird efforts to assist younger men just beginning their calling to “preach the Word.” (More info here.)
  6. A final ministry focus will be on reaching men for Christ through social media, writing, and future events around the fruitful theme “Act Like Men.”  Men need modeling and mentoring in adelphoi – true Christian brotherhood. I hope to begin a second book, Act Like Brothers, and by it bring biblical instruction about the duty men owe to their brothers in Christ, but struggle to experience and reciprocate.

Will there be Change Partners again? 

Yes. In 2019, I resolved not to pursue financial support or renewed Change Partners until our name was cleared financially. Many have sought us out regardless, saying they never believed the online slander, but we have felt strongly led to wait. With that vindication soon public, and having just received your contact information in August, we were excited to reconnect immediately (prior to those disclosures), to give those who don’t need it a chance to jump back in first.

Kathy and I are living on our retirement income and receive no salary from Walk in the Word/James MacDonald Ministries. We have also covered the cost of employing a small ministry staff, renting warehouse/office space, re-establishing social media, podcasts, YouTube broadcasts, HcN, and the other initiatives above. Not knowing if the confiscated ministry tools would be returned to us, we have also spent personal funds to regather our preaching library, build a new website, preparing by faith for the fruitfulness that Christ promises will follow every “pruning” (John 14:1-5).

All of this has been faith stretching for us. We reach out now to invite your renewed partnership, as our ability to fund the ministry by ourselves has reached its limit. Will you help us? A few have written asking how they can support this rebuilding, and our tax-exempt, board-governed, 501c3 is now ready to receive their gifts, and your partnership too, as the Lord prompts your response.

We remain committed to our path of “all digital, all free, all the time”  meaning all of my teaching, writing and curriculum are in process of becoming available digitally at no cost to the user. Our aim is to publish all sermons I have ever preached on the JMM site, along with transcripts of each message, and a searchable database by topic and Scripture. If you’ve not yet heard, many teachings can already be found there — nearly 5000 people have accessed them in the last 48 hours, and nearly 100,000 in the last month. With your help we can rebuild and even expand the number of people being reached with the biblical gospel.

Your partnership pledge or one-time gift today will “spur us on to love and good deeds” Hebrews 10:24. If that is your heart, your generosity will be received with gratitude to the Lord and as evidence that He has “brought [us] safely through” (Acts 27:1). 

If you believe in our future Bible-teaching ministry through the opportunities and outlets we have described, and desire to stand with us, check out the partner levels through the link below. We have been laid very low, and your response in faith at this time means more to us than ever before…

YES, I want to partner with you again – in the rebuilding of Walk in the Word and these exciting new ventures! ➡︎

All new and renewed Change Partners will receive: 

Regardless of when you were a Partner or how we initially became connected, we believe that God never wastes a trial and that our most impactful, God-glorifying ministry is still in the future. If you resonate with this, please join us in prayer and financial partnership.

We hope to be in more regular contact and are forever grateful for the steadfast love of the Lord expressed through you. We are also aware that this communication might fall short – even far short – of the answers you may have been looking for. We will soon be free to say more, but as we’re now finally able to contact you, we felt it was most important to simply reconnect as we get back to serving the Lord full time.
Warmly in Christ our Savior, and with hope for great victories in the days ahead…

— Pastor James and Kathy MacDonald