Three months after firing founding pastor James MacDonald, Harvest Bible Chapel has pulled the video and radio broadcasts of his popular “Walk in the Word” teaching ministry and announced that it will not move forward with plans for digital distributions of his sermons.
“We understand the disappointment this may cause to you as someone who has been fed through this teaching and has graciously supported this broadcast ministry,” Harvest wrote to Walk in the Word supporters in a mass email sent Thursday evening and obtained by CT. “But in the midst of this, we are trusting the Lord with every step.”
The church said it would “take down the Walk in the Word website until further notice.” While the site—JamesMacDonald.com—remains up, the sections containing MacDonald’s video and radio recordings are no longer accessible and generate a “website under maintenance” page.
After 21 years as a radio ministry, Harvest decided last year that Walk in the Word—which reportedly reached 5 million people a month—would be moving to digital distribution, but those plans have also been canceled. It appears MacDonald’s sermons have also been removed from Harvest’s YouTube channel, where many videos in its feed are now “unavailable.”
The move once again raises the question of whether to continue to use a pastor’s teachings after they have been removed from the pulpit.
Followers objected to Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale’s decision to remove episodes of Bob Coy’s popular sermon podcast once he resigned due to a “moral failing” in 2015. After publishers including LifeWay stopped printing MacDonald’s work earlier this year, CT asked ministry leaders whether Christians should continue to engage a “fallen pastor’s” teachings.
Several years ago, MacDonald declared that he didn’t want to see the recordings of his teachings outlive him. “I have a deal with my radio ministry that, unlike many other radio ministries, that the day I die, a notice [goes out] to every station that I go off the air,” he said in a video clip. “‘He served God in his generation, and he fell asleep.’ The day I die, I go off the radio; the day I die, I go off all video screens.”
The announcement ending Walk in the Word comes a week after Harvest elders stated that they would not be releasing “any assets including cash, physical property, and/or intellectual property” to MacDonald, according to terms set by the church’s mortgage lender. The elders also said that their former pastor did not receive severance, and no donations to the church or Walk in the Word have gone to support him.
In Thursday’s letter, Harvest wrote, “Walk in the Word is a ministry of Harvest Bible Chapel.”
The church also stated it stopped accepting contributions for Walk in the World on March 1. The teaching ministry brought in $8.1 million in the US and $380,000 in Canada last year, according to its 2018 fiscal year report.
Blogger and former Moody Radio host Julie Roys wrote about the Walk in the Word cancellation on Thursday evening, noting that 2,000 stations had aired the show in 2018.
Harvest told supporters, “We would like to express how thankful we are to Dr. James MacDonald for his faithful teaching of God’s Word for so many years,” and “many new believers came to Christ as a result of your generous contributions.”
MacDonald stopped preaching at the Chicago-area megachurch in January, when he took an “indefinite sabbatical” due to mounting criticism over alleged mismangement at Harvest.