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Pastor James MacDonald Disguises Himself as Homeless Man to Measure Church's Compassion

  • Kayla Koslosky

    Kayla Koslosky is the former Editor of She has B.A. degrees in English and History and previously wrote for and was the managing editor of the Yellow Jacket newspaper…

  • Updated Oct 17, 2018

Illinois megachurch Pastor James MacDonald recently performed a social experiment with his church and the results blew him away.

The founder of the seven-campus Harvest Bible Chapel posted a video of an experiment where he dressed as a bearded homeless man and sat outside of two Harvest Bible Chapel campuses before Sunday services, observing the churchgoers reactions to him. 

The Christian Post reports that MacDonald did the experiment to test his congregations’ willingness to love their neighbor as themselves like the bible commands.

The video that MacDonald posted to his Facebook page on Monday, first shows MacDonald sitting in front of the church buildings with a cup for change, a sign and a shopping cart. 

Then slowly, congregants begin to show up, and one by one they all walk by the disguised pastor, without a single person offering help.  

At one point, the video shows one man contemplating what he should do. The man walks toward and then away from MacDonald several times before finally deciding to just go inside the church.

"The closer a person is to us and the less common the struggle, the easier it is to love," MacDonald says in the video. "God forbid I find out my wife has three months to live. I would quit my job and quit everything, right? What if it's just an acquaintance of yours and what if the problem is recurring… How common is homelessness? How frequently is the homeless person someone dear to us personally? Never," MacDonald proclaims.

The video then shows MacDonald, still in his disguise, walk through the middle of the church sanctuary with his shopping cart and walk up on stage. MacDonald then takes off his disguise layer by layer revealing who was underneath the beard and ripped clothes.

He said to the congregation, "So I took a few moments a couple of weeks ago and camped outside of a couple of our campuses and I wanted to see how we were doing when it is hardest to love." 

“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. 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," he added.

MacDonald used the experiment in his sermon to illustrate that "it's hardest to love when the problem is most common and the people are least known."

"So how did our church do in the video?" he asked. "I am going to tell you now — awesome."

MacDonald said, “I was crying inside that beard. I cannot believe the people at this church.”

Despite what the first few seconds of the video showed, that was only a small number of people compared to the numerous church members who approached MacDonald. 

“The number of people that prayed with me and brought me food,” MacDonald said while getting emotional. 

The next clips in the video show dozens of people offering MacDonald coffee, water, food, money, prayer, and even the Word of God. Several people also invited the seemingly homeless man into the church to join the service and to see the love of God.

"I dressed up as a homeless man and sat outside our church. What I witnessed blew me away," MacDonald wrote on Facebook.

Photo courtesy: Matt Collamer/Unsplash

Video courtesy: James MacDonald