James MacDonald (pastor)

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James MacDonald
JMacDonald - Walk in the Word.jpg
Born (1960-10-04) October 4, 1960 (age 58)
London, Ontario, Canada
OccupationPastor, author, Bible teacher
Spouse(s)Kathy MacDonald

James S. MacDonald (born 1960) is a Canadian-American evangelical pastor, Bible teacher,[1] and author, originally from Ontario, Canada. He is best known as the founding and senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, Illinois,[2] and as the Bible teacher for his broadcast ministry, Walk in the Word.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in London, Ontario, MacDonald is a graduate of London Baptist Bible College (BA in Theology, 1984), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (MA in Religion, 1988) and Phoenix Seminary (D. Min, 1996).[3]

MacDonald was ordained at Riverside Baptist Church in Windsor, Ontario, in 1985. In 1988, recruited by a small group of ministry partners, MacDonald and his wife, Kathy, founded Harvest Bible Chapel.

Since 1997, his daily Bible-teaching ministry[4] has been extended through Walk in the Word, which is available around the world by radio and television. Further extension of his ministry includes: Harvest Christian Academy;[5] the church planting work of Harvest Bible Fellowship, which continues today as Vertical Church Network;[6] Harvest Training Center for church planting pastors;[7] a recording ministry, Vertical Worship; a Christian camp and retreat center, Camp Harvest; and a feature-filmmaking ministry, Vertical Church Films.

Personal life[edit]

MacDonald currently resides in a Chicago suburb with his wife, Kathy. They have three adult children, six grandsons, and two granddaughters.


Harvest Bible Chapel[edit]

Founded in 1988, Harvest Bible Chapel grew from 18 people meeting in a local high school, to more than 13,000 attending on seven campuses in the Chicagoland area.[8] MacDonald's preaching emphasizes the authority of the Bible, practically applied in a compelling and understandable way.[9] Known for its racial and economic diversity, the congregation[10] moved into a converted warehouse in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, in 1995, adding campuses in Elgin and Niles in 2004; Crystal Lake in 2007; the downtown Chicago Cathedral campus in 2010; Aurora in 2011; and Deerfield Road in 2012. The church's scale led to its inclusion in Outreach Magazine's "Top 100 Fastest Growing Churches in America"[11] and "Top 100 Largest Churches in America."[12]

Walk in the Word[edit]

Launched in 1997, Walk in the Word became the radio outlet for MacDonald's teaching ministry at Harvest Bible Chapel,[13] and began on local FM station WYLL. In 2000, the program was added to the Moody broadcasting network,[14] and by 2010 was heard more than 2000 times a day across North America. In 2012, the program received the "Billy Graham Award for Excellence in Christian Communication".[15] In 2014, Walk in the Word expanded to global television and, in 2016, received the award for "Best Television Teaching Program".[16] Today, the program airs daily around the world on the Trinity Broadcast Network[17] and many other radio and television networks.[18]

Harvest Christian Academy[edit]

In 2004, the scope of the Elgin campus afforded MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel the opportunity to launch a private school for students in preschool through grade 12. With more than 700 students and 90 faculty,[19] the school's purpose is to develop students who are grounded in God's Word, building strong academic skills, and given opportunities to participate in athletics, arts, and community service.[20]

Harvest Bible Fellowship / Vertical Church Network[edit]

The church planting organization Harvest Bible Fellowship was founded by MacDonald in 2002 and has planted more than 170 churches on four continents.[21] Prospective church planting pastors receive post-seminary training through the Harvest Training Center before being sent out to plant a church.[22] In early 2018, the work of Harvest Bible Fellowship continued through the Vertical Church Network,[23] which upholds the ministry "pillars" and distinctives[24] with many of its original churches and leaders through a leadership team based out of Harvest Bible Chapel Winston-Salem, NC.[25]

Vertical Worship[edit]

Vertical Worship[26] is the worship and songwriting ministry of Harvest Bible Chapel. Launching formally in 2012 (as Vertical Church Band[27]), their song "Open Up the Heavens," co-authored by MacDonald, was nominated for the Dove Awards Worship Song of the Year in 2014[28] and is at #23 of "CCLI's Top 100 Songs in 2016."[29] The band has released five live worship albums: "Bright Faith Bold Future" (2018), "Frontiers" (2016), "Church Songs" (2015), "The Rock Won't Move" (2014), and "Live Worship from Vertical Church Band" (2013).[30]

Vertical Church Films[edit]

Vertical Church Films was launched in 2012 to produce professional feature-length films that proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.[31] The ministry has produced two critically acclaimed short films, The Ride[32] in 2012, and Once We Were Slaves[33] (retitled The Two Thieves) in 2014. Vertical Church Films' first feature film, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, starring Brett Dalton, Anjelah Johnson, Shawn Michaels, and D.B. Sweeney, released in nearly 1000 theaters across the United States on January 20, 2017.[34]

Camp Harvest[edit]

In 2003, the church was given 650 acres of property in Croton, Michigan,[35] where it now runs Camp Harvest,[36] a year-round youth/family camp and retreat center[37] with facilities for 300, and a pastoral training center, which sleeps 40.


In October 2018, MacDonald filed a libel civil lawsuit against critics who run a blog called The Elephant's Debt, Ryan Mahoney and Scott Bryant and their wives, and also ex-Moody Radio host Julie Roys.[38][39][40][41][42] The suit was filed in in Cook County Circuit Court and uses the Illinois Deceptive Trade Practices Act.[41] Given the weak case presented for libel and the financial resources of the complainant, it has been suggested by Ministry Watch that the suit is mainly intended to strain the financial resources of the defendants.[42]


  • I Really Want to Change . . . So, Help Me God (Moody, 2000) ISBN 0802434231
  • Lord, Change My Attitude . . . Before It's Too Late (Moody, 2001) ISBN 978-0802434395
  • Seven Words to Change Your Family (Moody, 2002) ISBN 978-0802434401
  • God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002) ISBN 978-1581346220
  • Gripped by the Greatness of God (Moody, 2005) ISBN 978-1415829219
  • Downpour: He Will Come to Us Like the Rain (Broadman & Holman, 2006) ISBN 978-0805441994
  • Ancient Wisdom (Broadman & Holman, 2007) ISBN 978-0805444285
  • Way of Wisdom (Walk in the Word, 2007)
  • Restore My Soul: A Fresh Look at Psalm 23 (Walk in the Word, 2008)
  • 10 Choices: A Proven Plan to Change Your Life Forever (Thomas Nelson, 2008) ISBN 0785228209
  • When Life Is Hard (Moody, 2010) ISBN 978-0802458704
  • Always True (Moody, 2011) ISBN 978-0802458698
  • Lord Change Me (Moody, 2012; revised edition of the book previously titled I Really Want to Change . . . So Help Me, God) ISBN 978-0802405265
  • Vertical Church (David C. Cook, 2012) ISBN 978-1434703729
  • Authentic: Developing the Disciplines of a Sincere Faith (Moody, 2012) ISBN 978-0802457172
  • Come Home: A Call Back to Faith (Moody, 2013) ISBN 978-0802457189
  • Act Like Men (Moody, 2014) ISBN 978-0802457196
  • The Will of God IS the Word of God (Broadman & Holman, 2017) ISBN 978-1433650277


  1. ^ "James MacDonald Interview: Bible's Central Message Is Christian's Love for Each Other". PreachingToday.com.
  2. ^ "James MacDonald on Preaching Like Jesus". Preaching Today. Retrieved 2017-03-19.
  3. ^ "James MacDonald". Moody Publishers.
  4. ^ "5 Things That Make a Church Compelling". ChurchLeaders.com.
  5. ^ "Harvest Christian Academy - Elgin, Illinois - IL - School overview". www.greatschools.org. Retrieved 2017-02-06.
  6. ^ "Vertical Church Network – Church-Planting Network". verticalchurchnetwork.org. Retrieved 2018-05-04.
  7. ^ Chapel, Harvest Bible. "Harvest Training Center | Harvest Bible Chapel". www.harvestbiblechapel.org. Retrieved 2018-05-04. horizontal tab character in |title= at position 27 (help)
  8. ^ "Harvest Bible Chapel". Wikipedia. 2018-04-10.
  9. ^ "James MacDonald on Preaching Like Jesus". Preaching Today. Retrieved 2018-05-04.
  10. ^ Murashko, Alex. "James MacDonald's Vertical Church Tour: It's About Getting Back to Jesus". Christian Post.
  11. ^ "Top 100 Fastest Growing Churches - SermonCentral.com". www.sermoncentral.com. Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  12. ^ "Outreach Magazines Top 100 Largest Churches - SermonCentral.com". www.sermoncentral.com. Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  13. ^ "James MacDonald Bible Teaching | Walk in the Word". jamesmacdonald.com. Retrieved 2018-05-04.
  14. ^ "Moody Radio". Moody Radio | Programs. Retrieved 2017-02-06.
  15. ^ "2012 Special Service Awards". nrb.org.
  16. ^ Broadcasters, National Religious. "Walk in the Word to Receive Prestigious 2016 NRB Billy Graham Award". National Religious Broadcasters. Retrieved 2016-05-16.
  17. ^ "James MacDonald - Walk in the Word on TBN". Trinity Broadcasting Network. Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  18. ^ "TV Channels - Walk in the Word, James MacDonald Bible Teaching". jamesmacdonald.com. Retrieved 2017-02-06.
  19. ^ Chapel, Harvest Bible. "Our Story | Harvest Bible Chapel". www.harvestbiblechapel.org. Retrieved 2018-05-04. horizontal tab character in |title= at position 13 (help)
  20. ^ "About". www.harvestchristianacademy.org. Retrieved 2018-05-04.
  21. ^ "Churches We Have Planted".
  22. ^ Chapel, Harvest Bible. "Harvest Training Center | Harvest Bible Chapel". www.harvestbiblechapel.org. Retrieved 2018-05-01. horizontal tab character in |title= at position 27 (help)
  23. ^ "Vertical Church Network – Church-Planting Network". verticalchurchnetwork.org. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
  24. ^ Chapel, Harvest Bible. "What We Believe | Harvest Bible Chapel". www.harvestbiblechapel.org. Retrieved 2018-05-01. horizontal tab character in |title= at position 19 (help)
  25. ^ "Harvest Bible Chapel Winston-Salem - A Vertical Church | About". harvestws.org. Retrieved 2018-05-04.
  26. ^ "Vertical Worship". Wikipedia. 2018-04-20.
  27. ^ "Vertical Church Band makes music specific to the philosophy of Harvest Bible Chapel". lancasteronline.com. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  28. ^ "2014 Dove Award Nominees". Dove Awards 2014. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  29. ^ "PraiseCharts". PraiseCharts. Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  30. ^ "Music". Vertical Church Band. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  31. ^ "Vertical Church Films Archives - Christian Movies All in One Place, Easy to Find! CFDb!". Christian Movies All in One Place, Easy to Find! CFDb!. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
  32. ^ "The Ride". Attic Window. 2014-11-28. Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  33. ^ "Once We Were Slaves". The Attic Film Fest. 2015-03-06. Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  34. ^ "Christians in Film: Why I'm Going to See The Resurrection of Gavin Stone". The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer. Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  35. ^ Chapel, Harvest Bible. "Our Story | Harvest Bible Chapel". www.harvestbiblechapel.org. Retrieved 2017-02-07.
  36. ^ "Camp Harvest – Where faith happens! – Just another WordPress site". campharvest.com. Retrieved 2018-05-04.
  37. ^ Chapel, Harvest Bible. "CAMP HARVEST | Harvest Bible Chapel". www.harvestbiblechapel.org. Retrieved 2017-02-06.
  38. ^ Harvest Bible Chapel Sues Former Members, Julie Roys for Defamation OCTOBER 24, 2018
  39. ^ "James MacDonald Sues Harvest Bible Chapel Critics for Libel". News & Reporting. Retrieved 2018-11-04.
  40. ^ The Elephant's Debt | Lawsuit
  41. ^ a b Harvest Bible Chapel sues critics, accusing them of defamation Susan Sarkauskas, Daily Herald 11/28/2018
  42. ^ a b Is Pastor James MacDonald Seeking to Suppress Negative Information About Himself and Harvest Bible Chapel? Ministry Watch, November 27, 2018

External links[edit]