Chicago Megachurch Pastor's Wife in Tears: I Thank God for Criticism, It Has Sanctified Us

BALTIMORE, Md.- Kathy MacDonald, wife of Harvest Bible Chapel Pastor James MacDonald, said Monday she thanks God for the criticism that has been leveled against her husband.

MacDonald broke down as she recalled the attacks that she and husband James faced as they grew their Chicago church from 18 people meeting in a school building to the multi-campus church it is now. "Unfortunately I feel like I have my PhD in this topic," she shared with the audience of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Wives Conference.

Yet she tearfully proclaimed, "I thank the Lord for what he has brought us through because it has sanctified and refined us."

MacDonald said her family has walked through "quite a season" of criticism as their church has expanded. She explained "It's just the reality at our scope of ministry, people don't even know us anymore and they think that they do and they say things."

She also said that her husband's character made them a target for disparaging words. "He is a passionate man and he is a firecracker and he is out there and I love everything about that. But that also means that sometimes there are things that come back at you," she described.

A recent public disagreement occurred in 2012, when James MacDonald invited T.D. Jakes to participate in the Elephant Room roundtable discussion despite grumblings among influential evangelicals that the Texas pastor's take on the trinity was heretical. A leaked email from Harvest Bible Fellowship Executive Director Kent Shaw revealed that "certain influential men have rallied to pressure James to cancel Bishop [T.D.] Jakes."

MacDonald responded to the pressure by publicly resigning from The Gospel Coalition council, where some of the pressure was coming from, before the Elephant Room conference with Jakes, stating "I have very different views on how to relate to the broader church and how the gospel must impact every relationship." During the event, he said his decision "cost me some relationships."

While the Illinois pastor withstood the pressure in that instance, wife Kathy MacDonald recalled a time when his detractors nearly drove him to quit his ministry. She recalled, "We were driving to church in the midst of all of this real heartache, and my husband said I just don't think I can do this again."

In that moment MacDonald said prayer gave her the faith she needed to encourage him to keep going. "My husband has since said that was a turning point," she recounted.

MacDonald encouraged pastors' wives to remember the words of 1 Corinthians 4:3 and to not allow church members' barbs to weigh them down.

The 2014 Pastors' Wives Conference took place Monday with messages by The Church Planter's Wife author Christine Hoover, among others. Scheduled conference speaker Lois Evans did not take the stage due to weather-related travel issues.