J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

How Seizures Led Me to Write a Book on Sermon Writing

Simple Sermon Solution

Part of my purpose in writing “Simple Sermon Solution” was to share what I learned as I struggled with seizures.  There was an intense time in my life when coherent thought was no longer a given.  The Simple Sermon Solution was created out of that time. 

 

In this excerpt I explain how my typical pattern as a preacher was to preach with a “Big Picture Question” – each sermon attempting to answer that question from the text.  Post-seizures, that pattern changed a bit.  Let’s pick up during that time.

 

Enjoy…

 

Soon after arriving in Virginia, I began to struggle with seizures.  These were silent seizures that would nearly paralyze me and leave me unable to speak and at times uttering nonsense.

 

I could still preach, but concentration in preparation was hard.  I was on an ever-changing cocktail of meds to stop the seizures.  At times, coherent thought was a challenge.

 

I needed to refine both my preparation and delivery style, otherwise I wasn’t going to survive. 

 

The church was off to a good start, but I wasn’t.

 

So, I took a season to analyze my sermons, and I realized a few things.  Despite the Big Picture Question, I had fallen into the pattern of being a living commentator again.  I wanted more for my preaching and for my church, and organizing my sermons was getting harder and harder for me to do.

 

So, I did what every good pastor does:  I started studying, and this time, the topic was preaching.  It took every bit of my brain to do this.

 

I walked away from that season of study knowing that I needed to be more organized, and greater organization would enable me to be more comfortable, more fluent, and be a better preacher.  It would also save me a ton of time.

 

My studying, my experience, and remembering my dad gave me the organization I needed.  Here is what I decided:

 

I would stick with the Big Picture Question, and I would offer 3 points from the text to help answer it.  This would help me hone the question down all the more and make sure it was specific to the texts because there would be 3 points from the text.  I couldn’t just ramble, and I couldn’t include too much data.  I just kept reminding myself that keeping it simple didn’t have to mean my sermon lacked depth. 

 

But then, I had another question.  How do I make sure everyone could remember the answer to the Big Picture question?  Basically, what would make the sermon memorable?

 

After a few weeks of preaching with the 3 points, it came to me.  My conclusion wasn’t helping my folks remember the answer to the question.  Something more was needed for them, and something more was needed for my raddled brain….

 

If you want to learn more about what happened next, just download your free copy of “Simple Sermon Solution” at www.simplesermonsolution.com.  I hope it as much a help you as it was to me.  If you just like to hold a book in your hands, you can find the paperback at Amazon.

 

Gordon Duncan is the pastor of Evident Grace Fellowship in Fredericksburg, VA.  He is the author of numerous religious book and also writes for the business and optometric world.  You can find his resources for both on Amazon.

 

 

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November 13, 2017 Posted by | father, health, love others, men, missional, publishing, self-publishing | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Excerpt from Simple Sermon Series: Micah

I’m releasing my 3 part “Simple Sermon Solution” series in just a few days.   The idea behind the books is to help preachers and Bible study leaders better organize their thoughts so they can deliver their messages in a clear way to bring people closer to Jesus.  The 3 books are:

Simple Sermon Solution – a practical how to on organizing and delivering effective messages.

Simple Sermon Solution:  Micah – a devotional commentary that also demonstrates those simple, effective messages.

Simple Sermon Solution:  Easter – a devotional commentary that demonstrates how I used to organize messages and how I organize them now.

Even if you aren’t in a leadership position, these books should encourage everyone and draw them nearer to Christ.  They are readable as devotions.

To give you a taste, below is a excerpt from Simple Sermon Series:  Micah.  I hope you enjoy it.  Full release details will be available soon.

The pain and dryness of this world is to be met by a refreshing water of life, Jesus Christ, as demonstrated by the mercy He has shown us in our lives

We can’t ignore this promise and this injunction. God calls you to refresh the world., but we struggle.

However, as my mentor, Terry, often said was guilty of Little Bo Peep evangelism.  He used to quote, “Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep, and doesn’t know where to find them; leave them alone, and they’ll come home, wagging their tails behind them.”

He rightly said the church wrongly just assumed the lost would find their way to the church eventually.  In studying for this, I decided to look up the story of Little Bo Peep and found this.

Here is the whole rhyme.

Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep, and doesn’t know where to find them; leave them alone, And they’ll come home, wagging their tails behind them

Little Bo-peep fell fast asleep, and dreamt she heard them bleating; but when she awoke, she found it a joke, for they were still a-fleeting.

Then up she took her little crook, determined for to find them; she found them indeed, but it made her heart bleed, for they’d left their tails behind them

Even Little Bo Peep eventually went after those lost sheep at appears.

God has called you to be a dew to this world.  It is your right, your privilege, your duty.  How do we do that? We show mercy to those in need. We offer Jesus to those who do not know Him.  At the very least, we invite them to worship where they can experience mercy.

I know this can be scary, but don’t let every other love of your life be what you tell people about (movie, food, drink).  You are a refreshment to the world, but remember, we are talking about how God protects believers.  Being a dew unto the world is going to open you to criticism and persecution.

November 8, 2017 Posted by | church, church planting, entrepreneur, family worship, gospel, men, publishing, self-publishing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Simple Sermon Solution” Makes Sermon and Bible Study Prep Easy to Do and Easy to Deliver

Simple Sermon Solution

I grew up a preacher’s kid. My dad was a simple, sweet, and sincere country preacher whose sermons were easy to remember. They had creative titles with 3 points and an altar call…every single Sunday, and God used Him mightily. Many, many people became Christians under His ministry. And a few of us, even became ministers and missionaries along the way.

 

I didn’t realize it, but that was the path for which I was destined.

 

It all began when I was 16. I preached my first sermon at a Youth Sunday. Did you ever have those at your church? It is when the youth handle every portion of the service from beginning to end, and they asked me to preach. So my dad helped me write my sermon and it followed the same template he used. I still remember the points.

 

It went something like this:

 

The sermon title was “Spare Tire Religion”. Basically, the sermon was to illustrate how many people treat their religion like a spare tire, to teach people how to know if they do, and why spare tire religion is dangerous.

 

The three points were:

 

Spare tires are only used in emergencies.

Spare tires won’t endure for the long haul.

Spare tires are forgotten until they are needed.

 

You see the connection? Some people only remember God in an emergency. But a Christianity like that won’t endure. In fact, most of the time, a Christianity like that is pretty useless and forgotten until it’s needed.

 

Pretty simple. Teachable. Memorable. And people loved it.

 

It was at that point I began to realize the power of a memorable sermon.

 

Well, since then, I’ve read lots of books on preaching, gone to seminary, studied Greek and Hebrew, and tons of other things.

 

But aren’t memorable, life-changing sermons what we all want? We want powerful, memorable, life-transforming, and God-honoring sermons each and every Sunday.

 

Simple is not contradictory to depth. They should be partners.

 

Now, I am not a master preacher, but I don’t preach like I did when I was 16. But I do learn quickly and have figured a few things out. So, “Simple Sermon Solution” is about telling a story and helping you improve. It is also about a way to prepare and present your sermons to save you massive amounts of time…and preach memorably along the way.

 

“Simple Sermon Solution” is not going teach you how to study; it’s not going to replace the Greek/Hebrew/commentary work you need to do. Its intention is to present a template to help you organize all that work.

 

A free, digital copy of “Simple Sermon Solution” will be available soon, but I know some of you just love to have a book in your hands. For that reason, “Simple Sermon Solution” is now selling on Amazon. In the coming weeks, I will be releasing a series of books that demonstrate this approach throughout entire books of the Bible. Keep an eye out.

 

This book is also intended to be simple and memorable…just like the sermons that I hope you will preach. I hope it helps.

 

Gordon Duncan

 

October 23, 2017 Posted by | church, church planting, family worship, father, gospel, men, mission, missional, publishing, self-publishing, training men | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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. .

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