James MacDonald Used Nonprofit Funds for That Perfect Gift (Updated)

On the heels of Harvest Bible Chapel’s loss of membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, check this out.

Former HBC pastor James MacDonald gave Ed Stetzer a vintage 1971 Volkswagon Beetle. Then, Ed Stetzer found out the money for the gift came from MacDonald’s non-profit Walk in the Word. Stetzer did the honorable thing and reimbursed the ministry. Joe Thorn is a minister friend of Stetzer’s. You have to click on Stetzer’s note twice to read the whole story.

I seriously doubt any donor to Walk in the Word gave with the intent to buy Ed Stetzer a VW. Given the questions about finances at HBC and this story about WITW, donors should consider asking the Illinois Attorney General to investigate the use of funds and/or file a complaint with the IRS.

HBC and WITW appear to have moved an undetermined amount of money around without regard to donor intent. This kind of activity is what should bring in regulators and auditors for a thorough review. Donors beware.

UPDATE: Julie Roys has published additional information about the gift from MacDonald to Stetzer, complete with a photo of the VW in question. The value of the VW was calculated at $13K.



VW Image: Lothar Spurzem [CC BY-SA 2.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/de/deed.en)]

9 thoughts on “James MacDonald Used Nonprofit Funds for That Perfect Gift (Updated)”

  1. Warren, I think that you are being very soft on Mr. Stetzer. Imagine if the editor for the New York Times or Washington Post accepted a gift of a car from a millionaire that they sometimes did stories on. Their competitors would be all over that calling them out and for good reason. The standards we have set against corruption in The Church are much lower than the same the world has to police itself. JMac was buying access to CT for favorable coverage and, as The Wartburg Watch points out, was granted that access as JMac was allowed to publish a defense for suing TED and Roys. You would not accept the gift of a car from someone that you were posting on and doing a bit of investigative journalism on would you? Isn’t the conflict of interest obvious? The love of Money is a root for all kinds of evil-Jesus.

    I think we need to ask deeper and more probing question of this Mr. Stetzer. Question 1: Was this really a one timer that everyone assumes or have other celebrities given expensive gifts to him in order to buy a favorable story on CT? If he had no qualms about accepting this kind of gift from JMac then he should have no qualms about accepting gifts from a host of other rich Christian celebrities. It looks like this man has made a very good living off of his own celebrity status from his website where he promotes himself!

    Question 2: Was this really JMac’s idea or does Mr. Stetzer solicit bribes quietly from those celebrities that he knows through the grapevine would be open to such hints? I am not so quick to give Stetzer the benefit of the doubt. This man lacks the discernment or character to know when to turn down a gift. Does this extend to soliciting favors in exchange for access to soft-ball stories promoting “Christian” narcissist celebrities? Again the world is shrewd enough to ask these kinds of questions and demand answers of its people who run publications that do investigative journalism. We need investigative journalism and their standards do need to be high as they are a needed supplement to the police.

    Are you losing your edge Warren? I would think of all people these things would be obvious. I do not believe for a second that you would accept a car from JMac or any other rich celebrity out there. I also would not praise this man for being shrewd enough to realize that he is going to be caught and then giving a donation back to cover the cost of the car shortly before this went public. Even this assumes that he is telling the truth and you would not have a blog if the guys you write regularly on never lied. What if this were a lie he made up just now after the news broke? Can I question that he actually did send Walk in the Word a check for what the vehicle was really worth? Is this man’s character so far above approach that we should believe everything he says without proof? You know what KP Yohannan did with this kind of trust from the Christian community.

  2. It should be noted that the Harvest Bible Church scandal proves just how useless the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability is as a watchdog. They essentially had to be badgered into withdrawing their accreditation of HBC by journalist Julie Roys years after The Elephant’s Debt and others had started speaking out about improprieties:


    I believe this is not the first time they’ve been late to the party. So perhaps the ECFA’s slogan “Enhancing Trust in Christ-Centered Churches and Ministries” is more about enhancing trust through teaching slicker public relations than ensuring good financial stewardship.

    Julie also discovered the President of the ECFA had falsely represented his CPA credentials for many years and was even fined by the Virginia Board of Accountancy for his repeated misrepresentations. Not a good look for the president of a Christian organization promoting financial accountability and stewardship:


  3. Donor intent and the IL AG? How about the IRS and losing nonprofit status?

      1. Under any administration it is unlikely. Both parties have narcissists who are taking advantage of the system. Politics are all about working the system to your personal advantage. I do not think anyone up on Capitol Hill really cares about what is right or wrong. They are just there to pay back those who bought access to them by giving mammon to their campaigns. There is no justice on the earth today and that is why we need Jesus to come again and to bring true justice with Him.

  4. I commend Ed Stetzer for returning the money to the ministry that MacDonald had spent on the gift to him and his daughter, and roundly condemn James MacDonald for the misuse of money from Walk in the Word to pay for it. He should, of course, have used his personal funds for a personal gift. Given MacDonald’s history with Harvest Bible Chapel, this incident should be investigated further

  5. I wonder how many other gifts were paid for using ‘ministry’ donations. No wonder there is so much scepticism and distrust of churches and their leadership these days.

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