Well-known megachurch pastor James MacDonald recently posed as a homeless man stationed outside several campuses of Harvest Bible Chapel before Sunday morning services to see just how his congregation would react to his presence.
MacDonald, who founded and leads the megachurch in the Chicagoland area, posted a video of the experiment to his Facebook page Monday. He told his congregation he was blown away by the treatment he received as he crouched next to the door of the church campuses, donning a gray, mangy beard as he leaned against a TJ Maxx shopping cart overstuffed with his life ’s belongings.
“The closer a person is to us and the less common the struggle, the easier it is to love,” the pastor explained in the video. “[H]ow common is homelessness? How frequently is the homeless person someone dear to us personally? Never.”
Moments later, the undercover MacDonald is seen walking into the church sanctuary, pushing his shopping cart in front of him. When he reaches the pulpit, MacDonald removes the fake, raggedy beard and oversized coat, revealing his true identity.
“Do you know that your father in Heaven is giving the same graces to the person that is hardest for you to love? He is giving it. He doesn’t play favorites. He is giving the grace to everyone,” he said. “If we are going to love like our father in Heaven loves, we don’t get to play favorites. By favorites, I mean, so often we love the people when there is some benefit in it for us.”
The crux of MacDonald’s message — and the intention behind his brief social experiment — was to show his congregation that it’s “hardest to love when the problem is most common and the people are least known.”
Many of the interactions he had with his fellow believers, though, left him “crying inside that beard.” MacDonald then showed a highlight reel, revealing a number of congregants praying with him, bringing him food, handing him cash and inviting him inside the sanctuary.
“I dressed up as a homeless man and sat outside our church,” he said. “What I witnessed blew me away.”