Gordon MacDonald

General Teachings/Activities

-  Gordon MacDonald was pastor of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts for 12 years. He left in 1984 to go with World Vision (a neo-evangelical, social gospel relief agency), and then became president of a college-age missions organization, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (another neo-evangelical, para-church, charismatic group). MacDonald also regularly teaches at Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the neo-evangelical Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in New England.

In 1987, while president of IVCF, he publicly admitted to an adulterous affair. Though that should have stopped him forever from returning to the pulpit as a spiritual leader (since he was no longer Biblically qualified -- see note), in 1989 he became pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Manhattan. Then, as of 3/25/93, he took up the pastorate once again at Grace Chapel in Lexington, a church with 2,300 members and weekly attendance ranging from 2,500 to 3,000. (This shows how far down the spiritual ladder that particular church had fallen to bring back a fallen minister to the place of leadership! Nevertheless, the decision to call MacDonald back to Grace Chapel was hotly debated when members met on 1/10/93 -- about 26% of the 950 members attending a congregational meeting that evening opposed MacDonald's return as senior minister.) 

-  MacDonald is best know as an author, particularly for Ordering Your Private World (1984/1985), Renewing Your Spiritual Passion (1986/1989) (the latter [revised edition] being published subsequent to his public disgrace), and Rebuilding Your Broken World (1990). However, all his books indicate, to one degree or another, a significant reliance upon the psychological ideas of men rather than the pure Word of God (cf. 2 Peter 1:3). For example, in a less well-known book, The Effective Father (specifically the chapter entitled, "Please Show Me That You Care"), MacDonald clearly indicates his adherence to Freud's teachings on psychic determinism:

(a) Gives an example of a lady who had an "addiction" to promiscuity ("an addiction like alcohol"), which was allegedly caused by her father's lack of affection toward her during her teen years.

(b) Makes the statement that women who become promiscuous in early adulthood are likely to have grown-up with an unaffectionate father in the home.

-  At the height of President Clinton's sex scandal in 1998, it was announced that Gordon MacDonald was one of the President's "spiritual advisors," so designated to help Clinton through his so-called spiritual crisis. (Clinton's other advisors included liberal, social radical Tony Campolo, apostate Robert Schuller, and church growth guru Bill Hybels.)  In addition to supporting the abominations of homosexuality and the murder of unborn children, former President Clinton is a serial adulterer, a habitual liar, and a man who used the highest office of the land to obstruct justice. In a letter of explanation written to his congregation in September of 1998, MacDonald shrugged-off Clinton's immoral positions on homosexuality and abortion (deeming them "political" positions), and claimed that Clinton was a genuine repentant sinner worthy of our prayers and our fellowship.

-  Even of more concern is MacDonald's book, Ordering Your Private World, in which he teaches a technique called journaling. This technique has become a highly dangerous New Age methodology. One writer says the following about journaling (excerpted/adapted from Beyond Seduction: A Return To Biblical Christianity, p. 237):

"'Journal-keeping' is becoming popular among Christians as a technique for recording one's inner thoughts, along with ways to 'hear from God' by meditating on these thoughts; however, this same technique is used by occultists to make contact with the spirit world, and by psychologists to contact deep levels of the psyche, and thereby, tap into the 'ancient wisdom' allegedly contained in the 'collective unconscious.'"

Ira Progoff is one of the foremost leaders in this particular application of Carl Jung's depth psychology, known as Process Meditation; Progoff believes that through journaling "mankind has to renew its sacred Scriptures (including the Bible), which are now outdated." Progoff believes that extensive workshops, retreats, and seminars are necessary to get in touch with the "underground streams of images and recollections within each of us."

-  While MacDonald's description of journaling in Ordering Your Private World is strikingly similar to that taught by Progoff, he fails to warn his readers of the dangers of mistaking one's imagination for communication with God, one's tendency toward mistaking false mysticism for spiritual enlightenment, and of spending more time upon one's own inward thoughts than upon God's Word. In addition, since MacDonald claims to hear directly from God during his daily communing through the journaling process (see below), one wonders what he is hearing concerning his immorality and subsequent reinstatement to the pastorate?: (Emphases added.)

(a) "When I studied some of the mystic and contemplative Christians, I found that one practical way to learn to listen to God speak in the garden of my private world was to keep a journal. With a pencil in hand ready to write, I found that there was an expectancy, a readiness to hear anything God might wish to whisper through my reading and reflection" (p. 130).

(b) "I found myself sharing in the journal more and more of the thoughts that flooded my inner spirit" (p 131).

(c) "I began to realize that the journal was helping me come to grips with an enormous part of my inner person that I had never been fully honest about ... I became aware ... that God's Holy Spirit was directing many of the thoughts and insights as I wrote. On paper, the Lord and I were carrying on a personal communion ... this began to happen only when the journal was employed" (p 131).

(d) "... twenty years of journal keeping [as of 1984] ... Hardly a morning passes that I do not open the journal and record the things I hear God saying through my reading, meditation, and daily experience. When the journal opens, so does the ear of my heart. If God is going to speak, I am ready to listen" (p 132).

(e) "... a beautiful example of a man listening to God in his private world through the use of a journal ... as he perceived the divine whisper, he transformed into print the still, small voice of his Lord" (p. 133).

(f) "All of this is part of listening to God. As I write, I am aware that what I am writing may actually be what God wants to tell me. I dare presume that His Spirit is often operative in the things I am choosing to think about and record" (p. 134).

(g) "... the main value of a journal is as a tool for listening to the quiet Voice that comes out of the garden of the private world. Journal keeping serves as a wonderful tool for withdrawing and communing with the Father. When I write, it is as if I am in direct conversation with Him. And there is that sense that in the words that you are led to write, God's Spirit is mysteriously active, and communion at the deepest level is happening" (p. 136).

-  Promise Keepers is the gigantic new (1991) "men's movement" among professing evangelical Christians. Its roots are Catholic and charismatic to the core. PK's contradictory stand on homosexuality; its promotion of secular psychology; its unscriptural feminizing of men; its depiction of Jesus as a "phallic messiah" tempted to perform homosexual acts; and its ecumenical and unbiblical teachings should dissuade any true Christian from participating. Promise Keepers is proving to be one of the most ungodly and misleading movements in the annals of Christian history. Nevertheless, Gordon MacDonald is a promoter of this ecumenical, charismatic, psychologized men's movement as evidenced by his speaking at various PK events and by his writing numerous daily "devotionals" (encouraging journaling and women in leadership) for publication in PK’s bi-monthly Men of Integrity ("your daily guide to the Bible and prayer").

-  MacDonald and his wife are involved with James Dobson's ministry, Focus on the Family, specifically in the making of cassette tapes in FOTF's "Pastor to Pastor" series. FOTF describes this series as: "These tapes, produced six times a year, feature interviews with the most popular and well-informed religious leaders of our day."

-  McDonald endorsed Bill Hybels' book Honest to God: "Bill understands the questions people are asking, and he's not afraid to take some risks as he thinks through the way of Christ for the 1990s." (Hybels is a psychologizer [e.g., he extols the virtues of Jungian personality theory in Honest to God] and is one of the leaders in the unbiblical "church growth" movement.)

The National Pastors' Convention is an event sponsored by Youth Specialties (America's most influential evangelical organization for youth pastors and leaders), and Zondervan (publisher of The Purpose-Driven Life, the NIV-Message Parallel Bible, and evangelical distributor for Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ DVD). The 2004 Convention began its daily program with contemplative prayer (see Richard Foster report) and  "Yoga & Stretching" exercises. Emerging church liturgies based upon Roman Catholic and Orthodox rituals and sacramentals were introduced, including daily "labyrinth prayer" opportunities. The latter is a meditative prayer walk around a circular, maze-like pattern copied from a floor design found in Chartres Cathedral. This mystical Catholic ritual dates back to the Middle Ages, when it became a substitute for journeying to the dangerous, Muslim-controlled Holy Land in order to trace the "Passion route" of Jesus. As Catholics walked the labyrinth and meditated on the sufferings of Christ in their imagination, they obtained the same indulgences (pardons that would shorten their time of suffering in Purgatory to expiate their sins) as for making the actual pilgrimage. The Convention's evening programs included Christian comedy acts, The Jesus Painter (who "paints portraits of Christ in under 20 minutes"), "Tribe Church Drumming Experience," "Personal Emotional Health Discussion," an "emergent Pub with Live Music," and "Late Night Contemplative Prayer Services." 

The greater percentage of speakers were practitioners of mystical Christian prayer and worship forms (referred to as "authentic faith"), and the rest appeared to be advocates of, or at least encouragers for, the development of new methodologies and liturgies for the emerging culture of the 21st century. One topic was titled, "A New Theology for a New World." The double-location conference attracted thousands, and featured many influential church leaders, including Gordon MacDonald, Henry Cloud, Brennan Manning, Dallas Willard, Joseph Stowell, Howard Hendricks, Gary Thomas, Tony Campolo, and Rick Warren. The 2005 convention promises to be more of the same, with Christian contemplative, experiential, and emerging church headliners such as Richard Foster, Calvin Miller, Philip Yancey, Ruth Haley Barton, Doug Pagitt, and Dan Kimball. (Source: 3/2005, The Berean Call.)


Qualifications for an Elder are found in Timothy and Titus. For example, Titus 1:6-8:

If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;

Is adultery the act of a man that  meets the qualification of blamelessness? I think not. Does MacDonald’s repentance re-qualify him for leadership? His repentance qualified him to fellowship in a Body of believers; it did not nullify the qualifications for eldership. In our culture of victimization, all one has to say is, "I'm sorry"; but God's standards are a bit higher.

The commission of adultery by itself, ipso facto, makes one NOT qualified to serve as an elder, regardless of whether or not the adulterer meets all the other qualifications of an elder. If there were not a higher standard for eldership, why did Paul take the time to set out requirements? If all a repentant sinner (and prospective or current elder) had to do was to repent of his sin, whether it be adultery or anything else, why didn't Paul just state that the qualification of an elder was to simply “be a repentant sinner”? Surely Paul was not condoning the ordination of an adulterer, as long as the adulterer had repented.

In addition, the verse about being the husband of one wife is also one that applies here. The basic covenant of the marriage relationship implies no adultery and no divorce. A man that violates the marriage covenant in either way cannot possibly be deemed to be the husband of one wife, in a moral sense at least. Can he repair that sufficiently to re-qualify for eldership? -- I don't think so.   [Return to Text]

Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 3/2005