“Disqualified” pastor James MacDonald has taken to preaching again, this time at a church in California. Speaking at Calvary Chapel South Bay in Gardena, California, MacDonald described the separation from his Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, Illinois as a “crucible of suffering.”
“There were quite a few weeks over the last 13 or 14 months where I didn’t know if I would preach again or I didn’t know if I even wanted to,” MacDonald told the congregation of Calvary Chapel South Bay on March 15, 2020.
Calvary Chapel South Bay Given Vague Harvest Explanation
Pastor Jeff Gill announced that MacDonald would be starting an eight-week series on Romans chapter eight starting next Sunday evening. MacDonald, who had already preached at the church on March 5, 2020 during a Thursday night gathering, explained the situation of not being at the church he started in vague terms. He referred to a “time of separation” from Harvest, the church he and his wife, Cathy, “gave” their whole lives to, as being something that God allowed to happen.
While MacDonald explained that the separation had caused him to take an unplanned break from preaching for the last “13 or 14 months,” he believes “God began to stir within us a hope and an expectation that he had something for us still to do.” Only alluding to the trouble that caused the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel to disqualify him, MacDonald said he believes God has forgiven him. “My failures were not as such in relational matters that he couldn’t forgive those things.”
Further, he implied that the sudden change he and Cathy experienced was perhaps apropos, given “My whole ministry has had a theme of change and how God changes people.”
MacDonald also told the group, “Christians are not always that loving and not always as kind as the Lord would have us be. And somehow we who know the Lord best and love him most are not always changed as we should be.” MacDonald then tied that thought to the sermon series on Romans 8, explaining it was ideal for those who try to change but often find themselves making little progress. The series will delve into the question “How does God actually change people?”
Concluding his brief speech, MacDonald thanked Pastor Gill for welcoming him and Cathy. Gill then announced that he would be “sitting and getting fed” during these eight weeks MacDonald is scheduled to preach.
At the beginning of the Thursday evening sermon MacDonald preached about a week and a half before this announcement, he spent a little more time explaining how he and his family had come into contact with Gill:
I’m not assuming for a second that any of you know us or know who we are, but we have been serving the Lord at a church that we were blessed to start over 30 years ago in Chicago–up until recently, about a year ago. And the Lord has seen fit to allow us to go through a season of suffering and separation from the church that we gave our lives to and it’s been a valley….Our son actually moved out to this area and on a Sunday morning we were privileged to be here and to worship with the church family here, and I would typically always go up and meet the pastor afterwards, but in this instance I just didn’t.
MacDonald went on to explain that he had known of Gill through mutual friends and even had his phone number, so he sent a text to the pastor. The two met shortly thereafter at the church. MacDonald said speaking to (and crying in front of) Gill made him feel “really pastored.” Then Gill invited him to preach. “After preaching four or five times a week with never more than two or three weeks off for 30 years, this is the first time I’ve been up in front of anyone for 13 months,” MacDonald told the group, which started clapping.
MacDonald said he and Cathy are very “appreciative” of being a part of Calvary Chapel South Bay “during this season of our life.” MacDonald went on, “one of the things I appreciate about Calvary Chapels, and this Calvary Chapel in particular, is the attention and respect they show for God’s word.”
Home Church Network on Hold
Earlier this year, MacDonald announced he was launching a “home church network” ministry that would have provided content that a home church group could stream for their services. In an announcement about the initiative, MacDonald said that “large churches present complicating logistics and often negatively affect Christian relationships. For that reason, we feel led by the Lord to offer an alternative for those who need it.”
Now, however, MacDonald’s preaching at Calvary Chapel South Bay is putting that plan on an indefinite hold. The website for the network states, “As the Lord has recently opened a door for Pastor James to return to pulpit ministry, the Home Church Network will continue a pilot season through spring, then re-evaluate regarding future training events and plans for fall.” Considering that churches around the country (and world) are having to switch to online services due to the coronavirus, the timing seems somewhat ironic.
Calvary Chapel South Bay did meet in person on March 15th, but it remains to be seen if MacDonald will be able to preach in person or not in the coming weeks.