A Study In Pastoral Contrasts

I just finished reading a letter by a pastor who was asked to leave his church — and an open letter to all who were interested in the events and details of what had apparently happened upon his removal.

#1 — It is a remarkable letter for a variety of reasons, but perhaps the most noteworthy is how the shepherd now understands the thinking and feelings of the sheep who sit under leaders like this pastor.  Sadly, it takes the dismissal of a pastor from his ministry before he understands how God’s people feel when leaving a church after years of investment and/or after being dismissed by a twisting of the Matthew 18 process.

Typically, ministry leaders and pastors are not removed from ministry.  They generally leave on their own and usually on their own timeline, and after the damage has been done in that ministry or local church.  For many pastors, a 3-5 year rotation is standard.  Far more long-time workers, members, and friends of a ministry or local church understand the feelings of having to leave or of being dismissed after years, and even decades, of investment.

One would hope that ministry leaders and pastors who have been dismissed would have a different empathy and understanding of the feelings that the sheep experience, all too often under their leadership.  Maybe it takes dismissal from the leadership of a ministry or one’s pastoral position to grasp how unscrupulous and disillusioning it is to the sheep who sat under their ministry, who saw leaving as the only reasonable option left, or who were marginalized or dismissed for calling out legitimate — or illegitimate — decisions and actions!

. . . . . 

#2 — A secondary conspicuous element of this “open letter” is the obvious contrast between what is said and what is done.  The pastor’s lack of self-awareness is so obvious as he speaks about a biblical truth and then addresses those who supported his dismissal.  Here is one simple example . . .

“Be assured that we are far along in forgiving all, letting the legal process hold them accountable, and still seeking behind the scenes for meetings to assist a God-honoring resolution, which we have not ceased to pursue.”

Sounds consistent to me!  Forgiving all and going to court  — Sounds like Jesus to me! — Forgiving and holding them accountable, while thinking legal action will encourage meetings aimed at resolution.

The lack of “self-awareness” is rampant in leadership positions.  It is a by-product of position and power.  The very truths and principles taught or preached in a ministry, or local church are far too often the same principles that are being violated by the leadership.  What is being taught or preached is mind-bending in light of the actions of the leadership — “Do they really hear themselves when they say . . . . . ”

To highlight this lack of self-awareness, note that this open letter about his mistreatment is on the heels of a personal attack on Julie Roys.  As an investigative reporter, she published a number of articles concerning his removal.  He calls Julie Roys is a spiritual slut.

Yesterday, he announced his intention to “expose her,” and today, he began tweeting his attacks.  Here are his own words . . . (Note: this is a mild example from his prelude yesterday.  I am certain his approach will change minds – TIC – tongue in cheek)

“For years I have refused to read the tripe from #JRgossipslut Julie Roys but of course have heard from others. She is a cancer on the body of Christ and must be excised. If you love Jesus and follow Julie Roys you share in the judgment coming upon her millstone ministry.”

As he states, I am sure that his letter will “lift your spirit, clear your mind, and move your heart” — another example of how unaware he is — “Do they really hear themselves when they say things like this?”



Full Letter:

Dear XXXX,I write to you today in the hope you are well, and that you might give me a moment of your time – 5 minutes – to lift your spirit, clear your mind, and hopefully move your heart.

At some point in the past, I was blessed by our Lord to be used in your life in a small measure, through the gift given to me of preaching the Scriptures. Whatever caused you to contact me, we continued interacting and resourcing your faith, through email devotionals, teaching materials, radio/tv broadcasts, and special events – some listeners connected with us in this way for more than 25 years.

If you were fed, if you were built up in our awesome God and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, I am blessed beyond measure in knowing – and intended for it to continue as long as the Lord gave me breath.


Tragically, however, I was thrown out of the church we gave our lives to by a group of rogue leaders. To this day they have not answered for their vicious actions, including deceiving the church’s Elders and destroying Walk in the Word, which legal arbitration confirmed last year was not theirs to destroy.

When we won the arbitration and regained access to our teaching ministry, it was in shambles – like a model plane that had flown so beautifully, being “returned” with report of a crash, when in reality an envious child had dashed it against the rocks just out of sight. Not until November 2020 was I able to write to you, after two long years without your contact info, and only a small number of former listeners responded positively. Candidly, those who stumbled by the public deception sent many hateful words, full of hurt and so hard to hear. Yes, the Walk in the Word family who once loved and believed in our ministry was badly fractured and hurting, too.

At that time, Kathy and I determined to remain in God’s favor by not responding in our flesh. With a successful arbitration behind us, I can now say simply the financial accusations were false, the accusations of sinful conduct beyond the relational matters were false, and all were crafted to cover the looting of all Walk in the Word assets and destruction of that life-giving ministry as a pure act of vindictiveness.

Most of these psuedo-Elders are still in leadership and continue to deceive the fractional congregation that remains. By withholding my pension, they forced me to settle all claims against them, passing the buck to their phony investigators (who are now answering for their criminal actions) while supposed pastors who once loved us stick their heads in the sand. It is all so heartbreaking. In fact, those who the church paid $300,000 from what they stole to manufacture their lies are even this week answering to God’s established authorities “for the punishment of wrongdoers” (Romans 13:1).

For those who need it, the “Controversy” page on our website has been updated. It will now be kept current until Harvest Bible Chapel owns publicly their acts of sinful slander and removes the responsible Elders from their current roles overseeing the entire church.

Be assured that we are far along in forgiving all, letting the legal process hold them accountable, and still seeking behind the scenes for meetings to assist a God-honoring resolution, which we have not ceased to pursue. Yet current leaders continue deceiving the congregation and have never initiated any effort at reconciliation or even communication with myself or my family. Further, they have not publicly acknowledged the acts of defamation and destruction that forced them to settle the arbitration and return about 25% of what they had stolen and spent from the Walk in the Word.

Only a truly Spirit-filled Christ follower could begin to understand how grieved we have been for the things you heard, the hurt that would cause you, and our inability to stop or silence the mob and their shouting. “For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:8).


More than 300 years ago, Irish cleric Jonathan Swift observed:

 “As the vilest writer has his Readers, so the greatest Liar has his Believers; and it often happens, that if a Lie be believ’d only for an Hour, it has done its Work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it;” 

Then he added,

“so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its effect.” 

This sad truth is our reality. Though we have wrestled with how to move forward in faith and faithfulness to the Lord, by His grace that is what we have done… 

NEW TEACHING
For the past three months, I’ve taught verse-by-verse through Romans 8 on The Power to Change. I hope this series (15 messages in all) will impact you as profoundly as it has me. Change is hard, but God’s love through Jesus is transforming – and getting free from sin and becoming who you were created to be IS possible.

Watch “The Power to Change” here or listen on our podcast.


HOME CHURCH NETWORK

In February 2020, I began 40 days of prayer and fasting, asking the Lord to continue healing our hearts and directing our next ministry steps regarding the idea of a “home church network”. By the time 40 days had passed, the world was in unprecedented lockdown, the vision was clear, and the Home Church Network (HcN) was launched. Today thousands of households around the world have subscribed to our weekly worship service, led by the HcN worship team with fresh biblical teaching from God’s Word.

If you or someone you love doesn’t have a church home or needs to supplement their weekend worship, subscribe to HcN here and join us from your living room every weekend.   


BETTER BIBLICAL PREACHING
I am blessed to have invested in thousands of preachers and their desire to preach more biblically and with greater impact;  my desire now is to invest more deeply and personally in a few preachers who want to work hard at “better biblical preaching.”

Most sermons that fail, fail in the study not in the pulpit, and I am excited about developing a platform for building into pastors with proven hearts to improve their preaching.


GRAMP CAMP

Also in early development is an effort I couldn’t be more excited about: Gramp Camp: An Impactful Weekend with the Littles You Love. Most grandparents want to leave a lasting impact but are very unsure how to engage them in ways that will both excite and transform them for the Lord. In reflecting on my own time with 8 grandchildren, the vision for “Gramp Camp” was born.

Truly a life changing weekend-in-a-box, Gramp Camp will provide the training and tools to ensure a fun and spiritually significant overnight ‘retreat,’ built around age-appropriate Bible-teaching segments I will record with my grands. Also included will be training on how to share your testimony around a campfire, as well as games, themed shirts, invitations, a highlight video of our “Gramp Camp” and other surprises to pique your grandkids’ excitement and anticipation. The photo above is from a workday with a volunteer team helping to clear our ministry’s property for Gramp Camp and other future ministry usage.


JMM STAFF

In the 18 months since we relaunched as James MacDonald Ministries, we have grown into a small staff (2.5 full-time equivalents) with several dedicated volunteers who support many aspects of our communications and responses to those who contact us.

Kathy and I are enjoying a slower pace at this stage of life and volunteering our own time to the ministry several days per week. Your gift at this time to JMM supports the efforts described above and says loud and clear to the “accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10) that he is underneath our feet (Romans 16:19) in Jesus’ name.

Candidly, it also encourages Kathy and me very personally, and tells us you are standing with us in faith to see fulfillment of The Other Greatest Verse in the Bible (a message I recently preached – find it here).

Your financial gift at this time literally assists us in continuing to build our online library of hundreds of biblical teachings as promised,  “All digital – All free – All the time.”

Your gift also covers the cost we have borne personally of supporting those who work diligently to answer your questions, send out resources, and make these new ventures possible. At this time, every gift of prayer and financial support is very meaningful.


LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

“If we live we live to the Lord, if we die we die to the Lord, whether therefore we live or die we are the Lord’s.”
– ROMANS 14:8

We have never felt so entirely surrendered to God’s purposes, whatever those might be… and by His grace, ever so slowly, the tide has been turning.  Of the more than 4000 Change Partners once faithfully supporting our efforts monthly, there are now about 150 – the remnant from which we seek to rebuild.

If you have faith to see God “restore what the locusts have eaten…” (Joel 2:25), if you have a heart to see beauty rise, by the grace of God, from these ashes (Isaiah 61:3), I invite you to sign up or sign up again as a partner in seeing lives changed by the Word of God – or to send a single gift in support of our efforts to “rebuild the wall” (Nehemiah 2:17).

As a thank you, I will send a link to an expository teaching series we never broadcast on radio or TV, called “Determined: Better – Stronger – Closer”. It’s a verse-by-verse study of Nehemiah and was my final series at our former church, ironically expressing, “Every time God’s messenger says ‘Arise let us build,’ the enemy says, ‘Arise let us tear down what God’s messenger is building.’” I think you will be very encouraged by this series, knowing I had no idea what was just months ahead.

But God knew – He always knows – and we are hopeful that with this correspondence and your prayerful support, we can move forever to “forgetting those things which lie behind, and reaching forward to those things which lie ahead… the upward call of God” (Philippians 3:13-14).

PARTNER WITH US ⇒

You matter to us. Your friendship matters to us more than ever. And your assistance at any level in helping us go forward into God’s faithfulness, means more to us than we could ever say in a letter…

Just know from our hearts to yours, thank you for reading this, thank you for praying over it, and thank you for standing with us as the Lord leads.

We love you dearly,

Dr. James MacDonald

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