J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

I Didn’t Plant the Church that I Thought I was Going to Plant (and Thank God for That)

I didn’t plant the church that I thought I was going to plant.  Oh, I pastor a church that I wouldn’t trade for any other on the face of the planet, but we are not who I thought we would be, and my peace with that has made all the difference.  Let me explain.

5 ½ years ago, Amy and I moved to Garner to start Sovereign King Church.  At that time, we did not know a single person in the town, and we didn’t have anybody already committed to the church.  We started from scratch if you will.

Needing to get to know folks, I set up each day in the local coffee shop.  I would spend 4-6 hours at a time there trying to meet as many people as possible.  Within a month, a Bible study of 18 – 22 years old sprung up and the makings of a core group began.  Simultaneously, the web was working for us, so 2-3 families were catching the vision and wanted to join in with us as well.

I thought I was planting this suburban church that would have a strong, younger contingent which would reach out to the post-church, college aged generation.  We would have a solid base of foundational families guided by energetic young adults that would keep us invigorated and focused.

Within 4 services, every one of my 18 – 22 year olds was gone.

Over the course of the next few years, we’ve regained some folks in their 20’s, but even to this day, we are not identified by a strong contingent of post High School/early college members.  We have some, but we are not primarily a church of that demographic.  That means that we have a wonderfully different energy – one that I never could have designed or even imagined.  And I still pray that God gives us a great showing of that generation, much of whom is lost to the church these days, but that too is in God’s hands.

I guess the question is, “What happened?”  Where did those guys go?

Well, I had conversations with many of them without ever getting a definitive answer.   So, I used to worry that maybe there was something systemically wrong within SK.  I don’t worry about that much any more though.  Here is my best guess.

There is a big difference between attending a coffee shop bible study and attending a worship service.  In both, Christ is lifted up, but the Bible studies were simply a presentation of the character of Jesus.  While a worship service better be that as well, the full breadth of worship includes elements like Times of Repentance, Biblical Exhortation, and the examination commands surrounding the Lord’s Supper.  That is a completely different world.

Our services are designed to experience God in full worship, and that must include the confession of sin met by the glories of Jesus’ grace.  We could have redesigned our worship services to exclude the elements that made them squirm, but that would be compromising the full Gospel of Jesus.

I know that grace was proclaimed to each and every one of those folks, but the wounds of their prior worship experiences were still fresh for many of them (that is probably another post all together).  Some of those relationships remain, and I pray that each of them find a wonderful, worshiping either with us or some else, but the challenge is still before SK (and many other churches).  Our communities must be ones that proclaim Christ without hesitation, and at the same time, we need to call all people to faith and repentance of sin.  Grace is not grace unless it is the meeting of our sin by God’s love.  My prayer is that generation (and all others) will see and meet that love.

So thankfully, we have the church that God has designed for us, and each week, it takes on a new persona as we grow.  We don’t look like I thought we would look like, but we look as God wants us to.


May 9, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,


  1. Thankful to God for all that you do for your church. They are blessed to have you and Amy! Those young ones are hard to figure out…it seems that most are not interested in church until they have a family of their own. So, maybe they’ll be back someday.

    Comment by Amy B | May 9, 2011 | Reply

    • Thx, Amy. I do hope they’ll be back someday but I pray for a revival among 18-22 years as well. Either would be a blessing.

      Comment by jgordonduncan | May 9, 2011 | Reply

  2. Thanks for your labor over the past five years, Gordon. If you’re ever looking for a wingman, I’m just an ocean away!

    Comment by Drew Jones | May 9, 2011 | Reply

  3. Seems like it was just yesterday Gordan. I don’t know how I ended up on this post, but I’m glad I read it. I will begin attending Elevation Church in Uptown Charlotte tomorrow. Let’s get together next time I am in town.

    Comment by Joshua Hamilton | August 13, 2011 | Reply

    • Gordon*

      Comment by Joshua Hamilton | August 13, 2011 | Reply

    • Josh,

      Tara and I were talking about your playing for us just yesterday. I hope you Elevation and yeah let’s get together.


      Comment by jgordonduncan | August 13, 2011 | Reply

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