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EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: James MacDonald’s Anger Issues, And A Changing of the Guard In Evangelical Ministry Leadership

Editor’s Note:  Most Saturdays we will feature this “Editor’s Notebook” column. MinistryWatch President Warren Smith will comment on one or more stories in the week’s news, adding an additional perspective or, sometimes, a behind-the-scenes look at how the story came to be. 

Changing of the Guard?

I’ve been around long enough to remember the retirement or death of many ministry leaders.  Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, Jack Hayford, and Chuck Smith come immediately to mind. Conversations about their transitions inevitably prompted evangelical watchers to talk about a “changing of the guard” in Christian leadership.

The deaths this week of Charles Stanley and George Verwer motivate similar thoughts and conversations. This time, though, there may be something to the talk.

MinistryWatch does a quarterly survey of the CEOs of the 1000 largest Christian ministries in the nation. Our most recent survey found that 60 percent of them were over the age of 60. The same survey says that almost none of the ministries we surveyed had leaders older than age 70.  These data points strongly suggest that we’ll see a lot of the largest Christian ministries in the nation transition to younger leadership in the next few years.

James MacDonald’s Anger Issues

For a while, former Chicago area megachurch pastor James MacDonald was a headline machine. I just did a quick search, and MacDonald was featured or at least mentioned in more than 50 MinistryWatch stories, most of them in 2020 and 2021.

But he hasn’t been much in the news lately – till last week.

MacDonald has been charged with two felonies for allegedly assaulting a woman during a dispute over parking.

MacDonald, who was fired from Harvest Bible Chapel in 2019 and later disqualified from ministry for what church leaders called a “substantial pattern of sinful behavior,” was arrested in Coronado, California, on March 22.

According to details of the incident posted on social media by the Coronado Police Department, MacDonald, 62, was parking his truck when he hit a vehicle in an adjacent spot. When a 59-year-old woman got out of the other vehicle, MacDonald allegedly “jumped out of his truck and attacked the victim,” according to police.

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The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office said MacDonald was arraigned on March 29 and pleaded not guilty. He has been charged with “assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury” and battery with serious bodily injury, according to a complaint filed in the Superior Court of California for the County of San Diego. If convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison.

The Bible says that it is possible “be angry and sin not.”  Anger itself is not a sin.  But it often leads to sin if it is not channeled in redemptive ways. An old saying in the Christian counseling world goes like this: “Anger that is not transformed is transmitted.” Another old saying: “Hurt people hurt people.”

It’s my prayer that James MacDonald deals with his issues. I’d love to stop writing about him.

MinistryWatch In The News

MinistryWatch was given an Award of Merit by the Evangelical Press Association last week at its annual convention in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. That means we were named one of the best Christian news sites in the nation.  And when you consider that some of the entrants in that category are organizations many times larger, we were very excited to bring home this prize.

So thanks to our listeners, and especially our financial supporters, who made that possible.  And, of course, thanks to the MinistryWatch team, especially Managing Editor Christina Darnell, for making this achievement possible.

Warren Cole Smith

Warren previously served as Vice President of WORLD News Group, publisher of WORLD Magazine, and Vice President of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He has more than 30 years of experience as a writer, editor, marketing professional, and entrepreneur. Before launching a career in Christian journalism 25 years ago, Smith spent more than seven years as the Marketing Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.