J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

We Must Have an Urgency to Create Personal Churches

Acts 2: 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Our communities need personal churches.

What is a personal church?

A personal church is one where intimacy with Christ and each other is emphasized and strategically created within a community.

A personal church is one where it is easy to break into communities (small groups, women’s/men’s groups) that already exists.

A personal church is one where the leaders intentionally seek time with each family or single in the church so as to know them, encourage them, and love them.

Why do I say this? I’ll tell you why. I think our communities need personal churches because I see so few of them and their lack is inhibiting growth with Christ and growth in the church.

Two things helped me realize this.

First, the elders and I at Evident Grace Fellowship decided that we were going to try to do home visits (or at least get one on one time) with every family or single in our church over the course of 3 months. My elders raced out ahead of me and returned with encouraging stories or prayer, honesty, and appreciation. Real steps of intimacy in Christ were taken. As I began to make my visits, I experienced the same. One family was overwhelmingly appreciative that the pastor would visit without something being wrong. I could sense God moving in people’s lives. Once the elders and I visit everyone, we are going to try to just keep it up (visit everyone every 3 months). Real face time created open avenues for growth.

Second, I’m witnessing the damage done by the impersonal nature of some churches. Listen, I understand that needs go unmet in churches. Leadership is imperfect like church members and attendees. But people are walking away from worship because too many churches are too impersonal. They are either too big or they just yell theology without any personal care attached.

So, how do we create personal churches? Here are 3 steps.

One: Leadership must meet with their people. It doesn’t have to be home visits (though that is pretty effective). Day to day discipleship or lunches or whatever work. Genuine questions of care from leadership to the crowd make a huge impact.

Two: Discipleship must be encouraged. Conversations about prayer, book studies, etc have got to be emphasized. Testimonies of discipleship have to become common place. People meeting with people over the cause of Christ creates a personal church that is welcoming and open to growth.

Three: Small groups are essential, but not just 8 people studying a book. Small groups centered on the word of God that encourage real-time application and accountability create a personal church.

Hey, I’m an imperfect pastor leading an imperfect church, but let’s get beyond the showy, impersonal, facsimile of church that is passing today. If we have a personal Savior and a personal salvation to offer, then we must create a personal church to proclaim Him.

Gordon Duncan is the pastor of Evident Grace Fellowship in the Spotsylvania/Fredericksburg, VA community. .

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August 1, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Disease of Demand in Marriage

Marriage challenges abound. Since becoming a pastor, the single largest counseling issue before me has been dealing with issues surrounding married couples. Oh, issues like substance abuse, pornography, etc are always before the church, but marital conflicts appear to be the front runner.

For example, everyone goes into marriage with certain expectations. Couples have the expectation that once they get married, there are certain actions and support that they will receive from their spouse. There is anticipation of mutuality, kindnesses, and grace. There are expectations surrounding house work, income, sex, and children. Some of these expectations are communicated, and some are assumed.

Underlying most spouses’ expectations is the assumption that their spouse will return their love and affection with at least equal fervor. Basically, the thought is, “If I love and support you, you will love and support me.”

Problems arise, however, when an expectation of return becomes a demand of return. This attitude creeps into the relationship and become a requirement. Demands, though, are deadly in a marriage. One spouse demands that the other at least meet their efforts which is the basis of self-righteousness and not love.

When we read that, we are sure to wonder, “Is it wrong to expect our spouse to give as much we do?” While an expectation might be appropriate, a demand kills. The real challenge in marriage is not trying to get a spouse to match our efforts. The real battle is creating an agenda of change that focuses on self and not spouse.

When couples don’t do this (removing demands and insisting on personal change), the next thing that happens is that couples begin to walk through the motions. Devotion becomes duty, and as CS Lewis says, “Duty is no substitute for love.”

Hope in a marriage cannot be found in the guarantee that a marriage will flourish or that their spouse will change. Instead, hope is found in the person of Christ who loves, forgives, and enacts change. And as a couple, or even just one spouse, shifts their focus from their circumstances to the character of God, the basis of change and hope become clear. It is found in the person of Christ.

 

July 25, 2017 Posted by | church, church planting, family worship, men, mission, missional | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

July 4th Ruminations

July 4th 2013

This morning, I ran the Lions Club Heritage 5 Miler in downtown Fredericksburg, VA. It was a true convergence of the many things I care about it my life.

I ran with two friends from Evident Grace – or at least I chased both of them as they ran their races faster than I did. I’m thankful for people like Chris and Danny. They keep me humble and inspire me to never accept anything but hard work and discipline in my physical fitness.

The race benefited the Lions Club’s sight and hearing programs. I’ve been in the eye industry as a manager and consultant for nearly 20 years. I never set out to be in the eye care profession, but I am thankful for it and love the simplicity of the industry: care for people’s sight, early detection of so many health issues, and make people feel good about their appearance.

I last ran this race in 2013 soon after my family and I moved to VA. The photo above reminds me of the many folks at EG who I love, but it also reminds me of my health. That race was just weeks before my seizure diagnosis. I had no idea I was about to endure months of testing out meds. God has brought me so far since 2013, and today’s race is a reminder of His grace in my health as I ran a PR for 5 miles.

And today, of course, is the 4th of July. I am thankful for the freedom to write this blog without fear. I am thankful that God has blessed me, my family, and my church to worship and proclaim Jesus openly without fear. And I am reminded that so few Christians enjoy this freedom throughout the world.

So, however you choose to spend your day, I pray it is spent in thanks. Look for things that remind you of God’s grace and goodness in your life. And share your gratitude with as many people as possible.

 

 

July 4, 2017 Posted by | business, church, church planting, entrepreneur | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Simple Steps to Create Culture at Home, Work, and Church

In its simplest definition, culture is the attitudes and behavior characteristic of a particular social group. Essentially, culture is the environment in which you live, culture is the environment in which you worship, and culture is the environment in which you work.

 

But the culture of our home, church, and workplace are not the only cultures we interact with every day. We visit the cultures that we like and avoid the ones we don’t. For example, McDonald’s has a familiar culture. You know what the food is going to taste like, you know the happy meals are $2.99, and you know the general menu options. If you like that culture, you visit it and you buy their food.

 

My family won’t go to McDonald’s. One, we found their environment “moist” because all too often their buildings are wet and dirty. I don’t want McDonald’s because I think the food will kill you so we don’t visit that culture.

 

Instead, we go to restaurant cultures that we like, and the ones that we think are safe and friendly. We go to ones where we think the food is affordable and good for us.

 

This is true for church.

This is true for your gym.

This is true for most places you go.

You go to the culture you like.

 

Additionaly, at work, at home, and at church, you play a part in creating your culture. And, cultures change. They don’t stay the same. Cultures are dynamic; they’re not static. You get to create the culture that you work in, worship, and live.

 

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you’re working hard, you’re working safe, you are working steady, and you are working sturdy. This could be home, this could be at work, and this could be serving at church. Good job, but the person beside you is complaining.

 

“Ugh, this is so hard. I don’t like this. I’m so tired of this.”

 

Now, one of you is about to create the culture. They are going to create a culture of complaint or you are going to create a culture of something else. You can say, “Yeah, I’m tired of this too,” or you can say, “Hey man, I know it’s hard, but it won’t get any better if we complain. C’mon, let’s do this.”

 

One of you is going to create the culture, and one of you has the opportunity to be the dominant voice and create the dominant example.

 

The dominant voice and the dominant example always create the culture. So, today, at home, work, church, or wherever, be the dominant voice to create a culture that is encouraging, inspiring, honoring, and enjoyable. It will encourage and transform the weary and transform your jobs, your church, and your home.

April 11, 2017 Posted by | business, church, church planting, entrepreneur, health, mission, missional, optometric, optometrist, optometry, publishing, training men | , , , , | 2 Comments

Goals Worth Hitting are Goals Worth Getting

Goals Worth Hitting are Goals Worth Getting

Goals worth hitting are goals worth getting.

Let me explain.

If your goal is a good goal (virtuous, healthy, etc.), then it is worth persevering until you hit it. Obviously, the opposite is true. If it is a selfish goal, let it go.

But what do you do when you have a good goal, but you keep missing it? What do you do when it alludes you? The answer is a simple:

Goodness of Goal + How Much You Love It = Perseverance

8 years ago I decided to run a marathon. I nearly died, but I finished with a 4 hour and 44 minute time (4:44). I then decided that I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but I knew that running under 4 hours was the next step. The next year, I ran in the 4:20’s. And finally, on my third try, I learned better training and ran a 3:57.

I was close to the Boston Marathon, right? Nope. With my age, I needed to run in the 3:20’s. Another 37 mins? That’s crazy.

But the goal was good and my love of running was strong. It was worth hitting.

Then there was one big problem. The following two years, my body was racked with seizures. I went from marathons to barely being able to run 3 miles. When I finally completed another 26.2, I barely ran under 5 hours. 5 hours.

But the goal was good, and my love was strong.

Now, I’m closer than ever. I only need to shave 9 minutes from my best marathon to qualify for Boston. I’ve gotten close, and I will give it another shot later this year.

So, what is your goal?

Is it a good goal?

Is it losing weight?

Making more money?

Loving your spouse better?

Whatever the case, don’t give up. If you love what you want, then you will persevere to the good goal, even when it is hard.

Even when there are setbacks.

Even when there are heartbreaks.

Even when there are seizures.

And one last thing: Loving a good goal means learning how to do it well.

Research it.

Hack it.

Find out as much as you can about how to reach that goal.

That will engender a greater love and greater hope.

So, get out there on those goals. If you don’t have a big goal, find one. You need goals in life to help you have purpose. Those goals can be spiritual, physical, whatever. But make the goal tangible and quantifiable, that way you will know how you are doing and when you hit it.

Get out there, folks.

Goals worth hitting are goals worth getting.

March 30, 2017 Posted by | health, men, running, the ly life, training men | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Practice Progress – 3 Steps to Profitable Optometry

Back to BasicsWhat is it you can control to be a profitable eye care provider? Practice Progress offers 3 simple steps:

  1. Provide the best eye care.

  2. Keeps costs low.

  3. Increase revenues.

And while these steps make sense, implementing them and growing in profitability isn’t easy. That’s why Practice Progress released “Back to Basics – 3 Steps to Profitable Optometry”. In it, you will find details for each step with both positive examples to follow and poor examples to avoid.

You can find “Back to Basics” in e-book form exclusively through Jobson Research.

And you can find the paperback of “Back to Basics” at Amazon. Let’s partner together.

You can also find additional resources from Practice Progress at www.optometricrescue.com.

October 10, 2016 Posted by | optometric, optometrist, optometry, self-publishing | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Practice Progress – “Back to Basics” Releases 10/07/16

Back to BasicsThe eye care industry is at a crossroads.  As a result, we have written “Back to Basics – 3 Steps to Profitable Optometry”.  Here is why this book is so needed.

Government healthcare presents nearly insurmountable challenges.

Understanding how to code has practically become impossible.

Costs soar.

Revenues decrease.

Quality employees are hard to find.

And the big one…

Few practices make a profit, and even fewer doctors are making a good salary. 

This book is here to help.  Returning to the basics means returning to the core of what you already know.  And it is also enabling you to do the basics so well that you can make money again.  So, what are those basics? 

1.      Provide the best eye care.

2.      Keeps costs low.

3.      Increase revenues.

So, in “Back to Basics”, I will give you help to enable you to give the best eye care possible, show you how to lower your costs, and teach you how to increase revenues. 

Along the way, I will share real world examples to follow and avoid. 

I’m glad you are ready to go back to the basics.

Gordon Duncan

jgordonduncan@gmail.com

 “Back to Basics” will release on Friday, 10/07/16

October 6, 2016 Posted by | optometric, optometrist, optometry | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The L Y Life – Love What Others Love

fullsizerender-13The 14 year old plays Barbies with her 10 year old sister.

A wife watches a cheesy, action movie with her husband.

A husband goes on a walk with his wife at the end of a busy day.

And on and on. What do all of these have in common? They are examples of showing love by enjoying something that another person loves. Oh, the sister, the wife, and the husband may very well enjoy Barbies, actions movies, and walks, but in these instances, they are playing, watching, and walking purely to show love.

What the other person values, they will value, because that is loving as they want to be loved.

This is not an easy skill to learn. Many a child, and even adult, have said, “I don’t care about that. I don’t want to do it.” And that may be true. People we love have interests that we don’t have. But nothing shows love to another like spending time doing what the other wants to do.

It is a skill long lost.

It is a passion that needs to be revived.

At first, it is discipline.

In the long run, it is an act of love.

How can you love what someone else loves today to show them you care?

Your joyful presence will say more than many words.

September 26, 2016 Posted by | gospel, love others, mission, missional, the ly life | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Glorious Burden to Care for Others

Psalm 122: 6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure. 7 May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” 8 For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.” 9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity.

 The expression “glorious burden” describes the privilege that those in places of authority have to seek the good of those under their care.

Pastors have this as they shepherd and preach to their people.

Parents have this as they raise and teach their children.

Teachers have this. Politicians have this.

Essentially, all who have the privilege to care have this.

In reading David’s prayer in Psalm 122, you see a clear love for His people. He wanted their security. He wanted their peace. He wanted families to be safe. He wanted the prosperity of all of the people of God.

Today, each and every one of us bear this same glorious burden. It is neglected at times as we seek our good above others under our care, but we must always right ourselves to the heart of Jesus.

Hebrews 12:1b And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

 Our perseverance in loving and caring for others comes from Jesus’ love and care to joyfully endure the cross for our sake. So then…

Pastors, pray for the ongoing needs of your people asking God for mercy at every turn.

Parents, pray for the safety and godliness of your children in a world where both are rare.

Spouses, pray for each other as the road of lifeline companionship is fraught with obstacles.

Business Owners, pray for your employees to serve with dignity in an environment that you have created that enables it.

Teachers, pray for learning and appreciation in what you teach.

Children, pray for you parents and their perseverance in the long road of caring for you.

Pray for all who you love and even your enemies that they may be blessed.

 

May 17, 2016 Posted by | church, church planting, family worship, father, gospel, men, mission, missional | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Open Letter to Seminary Graduates

graduateWith multiple seminary graduations around the corner in the Washington/Richmond/etc., my mind returned to 11 years ago when I was preparing to walk up to the podium and receive my sheepskin. I was fortunate enough to have a ministerial call in hand the day I graduated, so I knew where I was going, to whom I was going to minister, and I even had a sense of how much money I was going to make.

My oh my, how times have changed.

Most of the seminary grads I know are presently without a formal call meaning, that they do not have a secure job in the ministry. At best, some of them have part-time youth or part-time music positions. I even know a couple of grads who have multiple part-time ministry positions. It would appear the day of giving newly graduated seminary students full-time, full pay ministry jobs has come and gone.

So, what to do? Let me offer a few practical suggestions.

Don’t mistakenly view seminary as the end of the struggle and your first job as the opportunity to exhale. Ministry is never easy even if you do receive full-time pay. Many of you have worked multiple jobs, put off having children, missed family events, and experienced a host of other sacrifices in the past 3 (or more) years to get to this point. The temptation is to think that now that you have graduated, you can exhale, get one job, and that life will smooth out a bit for you. Wonderful though that might sound, that view of ministry is idealistic and even a bit naïve. The freedom to eat pizza and laugh with your spouse or friend (and a host of other freedoms) without the worry of someone calling you on the phone with an emergency shouldn’t be taken for granted. The ministry is the most joyful, rewarding vocation of them all, but it will not be the period of your life where you all of a sudden get to exhale and take it easy. More thank likely, it will be the time where every aspect of you (physical, mental, spiritual, etc) will be demanded. More than likely, these same things will be demanded of your family to some extent. A fulltime ministry position may help alleviate your financial situation (maybe), but that doesn’t mean it will be the panacea for your ills.

The most practical advice I can give any seminary graduate is to find a paying job with benefits along the lines of a Starbucks or something similar. Starbucks offers benefits with an insanely low hourly commitment coupled with a decent wage. If you are applying for a part-time position and can express a willingness to work said job until a full-time ministry position opens, you will instantly become one of the more attractive candidates. Scripturally, we call this “tentmaking” as Paul provided for his income by making tents on the side, and worldwide, more pastors probably do this than receive full-time wages from their ministry. Coupling part-time ministry with another job allows for a larger mission field and offers the opportunity for your brain to think practically about ministry in the day to day. It also gives a church’s committee the opportunity to see your willingness to sacrifice, your maturity, and your heart in a way that they cannot in a candidate who is not willing to tent-make.

Personally, the years I have spent tentmaking benefited me greatly. They have taught me patience as I waited for the church to grow. They provided an avenue by which I could relate better to the people to whom I was ministering. They also guarded my heart against any sense of entitlement that my degree or ordination might tempt me towards. I view the days of working another job as a day for my heart and brain to be challenged in a way that full-time ministry cannot. I generally return refreshed and renewed.

And most importantly, I suggest you make the Gospel both your humility and your confidence. The wonderful truth that Christ has provided you with all the qualification before God that you will ever need should humble you to no end. You could never qualify for such status before God as a Christian much less as a pastor without the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. That heart attitude will also be your confidence. Knowing that you are loved and accepted as the Father loves Christ (John 17) gives you the confidence to do the work of ministry (in whatever form that God provides) without the fear of rejection or failure. All that needs to be accomplished has been accomplished on your behalf before day one of your ministry whether it be full or part-time.

Congrats to you and to your families for making it to this point. I pray great things for you as you seek to know and understand God’s will for you in future ministry.

May 6, 2016 Posted by | church, church planting, family worship, father, gospel, men, mission, missional | , , , , , , | Leave a comment