Harvest Bible Chapel Elgin, “General Contractor James MacDonald”, and $20 Million Dollars of Wasted Money in Steel

Harvest Bible Chapel in Elgin, Illinois started out as a gift from Hobby Lobby’s owners. What happened afterward shows the carelessness and reckless nature of James MacDonald. James MacDonald took control of the expansion project after driving people away. As a result of his actions Harvest allegedly wasted $20 million dollars in steel. The other question to be asked is this, did James MacDonald violate Illinois law?  

“Those of you men and women who are in business will know what a massive, massive thing it is to have $53 million added to your balance sheet in a 3-minute phone call,” MacDonald said Sunday in his sermon. “That was a very, very good day.

James MacDonald in the Chicago Tribune in 2003

“The biggest mistake you can make in life is to waste your time.”

Jerry Bruckner 

Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful.

1 Corinthians 4:2 NLT

James MacDonald 

Harvest Bible received an incredible gift in 2003. What became of it and the wasted money is another testament as to why James MacDonald is unqualified to teach or be an elder. Before we get into the details let’s review what Hobby Lobby gave to James MacDonald for $1.00 to lease the property for a year.


Harvest Bible Chapel Receives a Gift

Safety-Kleen had a property in Elgin that was quite remarkable. The property was a 275,000-square-foot office building. Also included is a 6 level covered parking garage and an 1,800 square-foot house that can be used as a conference facility. The buildings sit in a heavily wooded area of 80 acres. Saftey-Kleen went into bankruptcy in 2000 and Hobby Lobby acquired the property for $9 million in 2002 at an auction.  Jerry Falwell Sr. who founded Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia came and scouted the land in 2002. Liberty was considering a satellite campus in Illinois at the time. Jerry Falwell Sr. decided against the campus and told the Green family of Hobby Lobby that is should be given to Harvest Bible Chapel instead. Hobby Lobby then decided to donate the land to Harvest Bible Chapel. The Greens liked the evangelical message of Harvest Bible. On February 20, 2003 James MacDonald received word of the donation. A deal was signed where Harvest Bible agreed to pay $1 to lease the property for a year before taking ownership. If you would like to read more about the transaction you can do so in this Chicago Tribune article.  What was to come next was remodeling and turning a business complex into an evangelical worship center and that was when problems started to develop.


Building an Expansive Worship Center and Construction Flaws

James MacDonald according to what I hear from my sources is very controlling. He has quite a temper and serious anger issues. The donation by the Green family flattered James MacDonald and who started to view the land not as the church but in actuality his own. When the church started to build the worship center at Elgin the person who helped oversee the project was John Wauterlek. John is a talented and knowledgeable individual. He has been involved in building contracts for a long period of time. According to what I have heard in time James MacDonald drove John Waterlek away from the project. There were several other members who were also driven off the project. If anyone can help identify them for me The Wondering Eagle would appreciate that knowledge. James MacDonald was the only person on three committees that were making decisions. During this time James MacDonald was allegedly spinning people against each other. MacDonald then overtook a lot of the responsibilities in the building project. James allegedly started to engage in purchasing and obtained the wrong steel for the foundation of the worship center of Elgin. As a result of MacDonald’s  alleged purchasing error Harvest Bible Chapel had to spend an extra $20 million dollars to fix the issues in the foundation of the worship center. As a result of the situation Harvest Bible allegedly brought in Raths, Raths and Johnson. Raths, Raths and Johnson is an engineering, architecture and forensics consulting firm. They perform investigative services for building structures and also do design and repair. They do both structural engineering and laboratory testing. Rathes it appears in its investigation of the Elgin worship center discovered the steel issues in the building frame of the campus. The problems were so severe that they seriously compromised the structural integrity of the building. It was also learned that the building was done in violation of Illinois code. According to Raths the faulty construction risked structural collapse thus posing a safety risk. You can read about this on the Raths website right here. James MacDonald from what I have heard has not owned his mistakes. However in researching and discussing this situation with sources there are a number of questions that need to be asked of this boondoggle. 


Questions that Need to be Asked About Elgin 

In regards to the building issues of the Elgin campus of Harvest Bible Chapel this is what The Wondering Eagle would like to know. Please feel free to add to this list of questions below. 

  1. What happened to the steel that was replaced and scrapped? How much was it sold for and did the funds from the sale make it back to Harvest Bible Chapel? 
  2. Can James MacDonald account for every penny from that transaction? 
  3. Who did James MacDonald buy the steel from? And were there any additional deals that took place that Harvest members never learned about? 
  4. Did James MacDonald violate Illinois law in making decisions about construction when he is not licensed to practice in Illinois? 
  5. Where there other corners cut in construction that increased the risk at Harvest Bible Chapel? For examples cutting corners in wiring, plumbing, or other forms of building? 

7 thoughts on “Harvest Bible Chapel Elgin, “General Contractor James MacDonald”, and $20 Million Dollars of Wasted Money in Steel

  1. James told the congregation, much later, that after a meeting with the leadership of the steel company, they replaced the defective steel at no charge.

    Liked by 1 person

      • An endnote to that story in James’ book _Vertical_Church_ says “As part of the settlement, we agreed not to disclose the names of companies or the employees involved.”

        You can read how James described the event in _VC_ here:
        (linked by pages because sometimes I can scroll between pages and sometimes not)

        I was attending when he told this to the church. AFAICR he said it then pretty much as written in the book later, if a little more bluntly hostile about what he would spend the rest of his life doing. I recall thinking at the time that what he said he said to the guy on the phone didn’t seem like anything Jesus would say to anyone about anything.

        Here’s the bigger picture thing, I think:
        Taken as written, James gives a suppporting illustration that glorifies God while humbling himself.
        But it’s everyone else that did wrong while James accepts responsibility for his errors of misplaced naive trust and failure to fire people “sooner and more courageously”.
        I surely don’t know the actual facts of steel deal, but a lot of his stories go like that.


        The “painful experiences” listed just before he gets into the steel story include “a small, divided church board that selfishly gripped its own role…” Um, yeah. Fixed that alright. The elder board is now suitably large and unanimous. Unanimous, ya’hear! The elders are unanimous. Did I say unanimous? Unanimous. And I’m at a different church.


        Thumbing through _VC_ reminds me of what, I think, is so vexatious about James: much of what he says is solid and helpful. He’s not _just_ an egomaniacal autocrat.

        In his review of _VC_
        Tim Challies remarked “Really, Vertical Church would have made an excellent 120-page book” and called it a book with “very helpful strengths and very dangerous weaknesses”. The same fits its author?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Jeff Parham of Harvest Bible Chapel is Reported to the Elgin Police for Embezzlement, and Why James MacDonald Will Likely Not Allow a Full Audit | Wondering Eagle

  3. Pingback: James MacDonald is Out at the Southern Baptist Pastor’s Conference. Was He Held Accountable for the First Time in His Life? | Wondering Eagle

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