Friend of James MacDonald Calls for Close of Cult of Personality

Et tu Mancow?

James MacDonald somewhere might be saying something like that after Mancow Muller’s open letter to him was published this morning in the Chicago Daily Herald. Muller attends Harvest Bible Chapel and is a radio personality in the Chicago area. He says he loves MacDonald but also calls him to change his ways. He ends his letter with this:

For a great many, it’s time for the cult of personality of James MacDonald at Harvest chapter to close and the actual Bible to be opened again.

Muller’s letter is a summary of the public allegations hurled at MacDonald and HBC over the past several years. We learn in it that Muller suggested an attorney for the now dropped defamation suit against a journalist, two bloggers and the bloggers’ wives. In it, Muller claimed that MacDonald asked Muller for a $3-million donation to HBC. According to Muller, MacDonald asked Muller to sell his memorabilia and give the proceeds to the church. In response, Muller asked MacDonald to sell his motorcycle. MacDonald refused.

Muller claims the church has not been honest in messages delivered to the public and that MacDonald has not been truthful about his home.  He also said the Naples sabbatical has been planned as a vacation and is not being described adequately to the public. He says the church is cultlike in trying to keep members from reading about the church from online sources.

Muller doesn’t hold back when describing Harvest elders. He refers to them as a “caldron of yes men” and a “marionette quartet” who have “lost their way.”

Muller’s advice to HBC is drastic:

Pastor James should come home and face his church family and stop this game of charades. The so-called “elders” must all be fired. An outside truly independent group, not picked by the MacDonald clan, must be brought in.

If this is true…

Those interested in HBC should read the entire letter.  I maintain that many people who attend a Harvest church are so far removed that they might not realize any of this is happening. However, if what Muller (and many critics) says is true, donors are enabling a dysfunctional organization. If history (e.g. Mars Hill Church) is a guide, many will quietly do exactly what Muller recommends.

Image: By Esther 5000 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

19 thoughts on “Friend of James MacDonald Calls for Close of Cult of Personality”

  1. Mancow’s description of Pastor James and a fundraising campaign asking him for $3 million a few months ago sounds just like recent installments of Leah Remini’s anti Scientology series. Mancow said no, being unemployed at the time. They then “requested” smaller and smaller amounts & then asked if he “could at least sell all of my memories (in the form of my memorabilia) and give that money to Harvest.”

    1. Well, in the case of Scientology, the reges would have taken Mancow into a room and attempted to work him over. Of course they’d go for the memorabilia, that would be easy. But then they’d be all into, “can you mortgage your house? can you take out a 2nd? do you have a 401K you can raid? what about getting another credit card or two?” The Sea Org people from Finance are a scary bunch. They will talk about how if you don’t help Ron now, you won’t be helping to clear the planet, you will be slowed on going up the bridge and this could affect your eternity. And no, I’ve never, ever been a Scientologist, never even been in a church of Scientology, but I’ve read far too many accounts of people who were basically taken for everything they owned by the greedy and rapacious cult of greed and power, the gold standard. Compared to them, James MacDonald is a piker. Maybe he should have threatened Mancow’s salvation a bit more for better results!

    2. I thought of Scientology, too! I’m beginning to think the only way to stop the financial abuses is for all churches to lose tax exempt status.

      1. That wouldn’t get rid of it. I think ultimately the teaching function of preachers will move to actual schools where issues can be debated, and the future church will be all about Christian community without the hierarchy, dogma, and career Christians. Then giving will be direct to the needy and ministry the work of the people rather than the fleecing of those same people.

      2. I am praying for a way to take Scientology down. But looking at them and the mega churches, we have to keep in mind that 60% of churches have less than 100 members, 94% under 500 members. The majority of pastors have a second secular job.

        A few gargantuan bad apples are casting a shadow on small, run-on-a shoestring congregations.

  2. Anyone interested in seeing what MacDonald was all about should watch Church of Tares on YouTube. When I saw the clip of MacDonald mocking the idea of any authority over him, my jaw dropped. His arrogance was appalling. I looked hard to see if ANYONE in that congregation got up and walked out, as I would have done. I didn’t see anyone, so I am happy that this monstrosity of a church is imploding…because it should. Clearly, MacDonald was influenced to go the way of the Rick Warren and Emergent Church model embraced by charlatans like Steven Furtick and his ilk. It’s truly sickening. It will be interesting to see if MacDonald repents and changes his ways, but thanks be to God that his authoritarian rule is nearly at an end.

      1. The specific clip of MacDonald is at 50:30. There is another at 44:21. If you have the time, watch the entire video, in increments if need be, because it explains how these church growth administrators like Bill Hybels, Mark Driscoll, Steven Furtick, Andy Stanley, Rob Bell and MacDonald (they’re not pastors) lost their way due to the influence of Rick Warren. I pray they all repent and find their way back to God, or that God will destroy their ability to influence and mislead others.

  3. It’s hard to read that letter, because I know what it’s like realizing you’ve been part of an unhealthy group dynamic. Even now, it’s clear that he hopes he’ll find out there’s more to MacDonald than is now evident. I hope he’s able to get through this without giving in to cynicism.

  4. “…if you don’t give, see who is more blessed — me or you.” – James MacDonald

    Looks like the answer to that was “not MacDonald.”

  5. Any of us with ministry and/or leadership roles in the Church have to watch ourselves very very carefully. It is just too easy to end up on a slippery slope to lies and exploitation, seeking to ‘defend’ the institution in which we have invested, maybe very greatly. Perhaps it also the case that some people think that God needs especially them, and become complacent as a result. Ultimately God needs noone and nothing, his desire for relationship and collaboration notwithstanding.

    1. A lot of this boils down to how much authority the pastor commands. I may be biased, having grown up in the Methodist Church in the UK, but I believe their structure provides a better safeguard against such abuses. Ministers typically only stay at one church for a few years before being moved on to a new appointment, and the congregation gets a say on whether they’re invited back. There is always an (elected) authority above them, so they can’t get too far out of line. Of course, one can go too far in the other direction, as in the Catholic Church’s insular and defensive hierarchical response to child sex abuse allegations against its priests.

      Most of the scandals appear to be in churches where the pastor has close to unimpeachable authority, typically because they have founded the church, or grown it, or inherited it from their father, and they’re often protected from censure by a pliant group of elders who do little more than rubber stamp the pastor’s decisions.

      No doubt it’s easy to fall into the trap. It takes a certain amount of ego to build up any enterprise, churches included (don’t believe all that talk about being humble, be they church leaders or politicians) and success breeds adulation, which in turns creates a feedback loop which reinforces the pastors belief that they can do no wrong, and once that happens, it’s almost impossible to publicly admit failure because of the risk of everything they worked for coming crashing down.

      No system of governance is perfect, but the more power is seen to rest in the hands of one person, the more ripe for abuse the system is.

      1. We’re all biased, but I think your point about authority structures that make people accountable to each other is a point well made.

        I also agree that ‘ego’ can be useful in taking risks that lead to achievement. Adulation in the sunlight of success and feedback loops and fear of admitting mistakes … yes, yes and, again, yes.

        In fact, I can’t really find anything here with which I disagree, so I’ll stop right now!

      2. I totally agree that a denominational structure helps safeguard against these abuses, especially financial and nepotism. I steer clear of non-dom churches for that reason. “Church planting” has become an entrepreneurial endeavor.

        Of course denominations aren’t “cool” anymore, just like non-ear splitting music. Several denominational churches in my town are “rebranding” to take the denomination, and in some cases, the word “church” out of their names.

  6. Wow, that’s devastating, in that it confirms pretty much all the rumors about what’s been going on behind the scenes at HBC, and from someone MacDonald clearly felt he could confide in.


    The odds James MacDonald can weather the storm have just lengthened considerably, and if I was a member or on the staff of one of the HBC churches (especially Naples, Fl) I would be demanding answers.

  7. Mancow “Muller claimed that MacDonald asked Muller for a $3-million donation to HBC. According to Muller, MacDonald asked Muller to sell his memorabilia and give the proceeds to the church. In response, Muller asked MacDonald to sell his motorcycle. MacDonald refused.” This very one sided deal offered up by JMac reminded me of something I read recently. In a recent “Word for the Week” by Rick Joyner, he talked about how almost all of the offers he received from other “Christian Ministries” for partnerships were nothing of the sort. They were one-way deals that offered very little to absolutely nothing in return. The term “partnership” in these arraignments is truly worthy of mocking. I sent the link to this to an old friend of mine who is a director for an international ministry that he has been with for decades now. He has seen a lot of this kind of thing personally as well with numerous offers of “partnerships” by other ministries hoping that his would promote them. This is what the man said, not speaking as a formal representative of his particular ministry,

    “One point he brings out that I agree with him, and it’s a sad indictment over all to ministries, and that is that requests most times is a one-way street, i.e. what you can do for me rather than a true complementary partnership to bless each other and advance The Kingdom.”

    This is an insider comment on the state of the industry that we call “Christian Ministries” today. This is a clear sign of NPD, that you think that someone else should sell there stuff and give you 3 million! And yet you are unwilling to sacrifice a vehicle worth a tiny fraction of that for the same. The blatant selfishness of this is in your face. Why do we put up with this? Who is more insane? The guys with a very real personality disorder or all of us feeding their egos and literally buying their b.s?

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