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

“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

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

I am a Fatherless Son

http://i.ytimg.com/vi/JY5RA2M8PyE/maxresdefault.jpgI am now a fatherless son.

I have been blessed with an amazing father and father figures throughout my years.  And while every man sits under the influence of his father (good or bad), I know that I would not be who I am without their influence, and by God’s grace, I am thankful. But in less than a 4 year period of time, my father, my mentor, and my father in law have all passed.

I have written much since Thom Duncan passed in 2012. Truly a great, talented, Godly man, “Sam,” as I affectionately called him, was amazing. An accomplished pianist, interior designer, floral designer, teacher, and pastor, Sam had more gifts than most collections of people could hope for in a span of generations. When he died, I could not remember 5 arguments between us, though the few that came to mind were memorable. I was corrected by him countlessly, but the arguments were either rare or have faded from memory. In an amusing re-telling, one of our more serious conflicts was resolved by theologian RC Sproul when I convince RC to say hello to my dad from the PCA General Assembly floor from a cell phone. Sam was an amazing father in that he wanted so many things for me but allowed me to pursue them at my own pace and with little meddling. When I was ordained as a pastor, it was one of the happiest days of his life. At his passing, I could only look back and reflect on his unwavering love and approval of me despite my many sins and flaws.

In 2013, my mentor, Terry Traylor, passed. He was the closest to Superman as any man that I ever met. Wise beyond his years, respected by nearly everyone he knew, and ridiculously strong (physically and spiritually). While I wouldn’t have been a Christian without my father, I definitively know that I would not have been a pastor had not Terry confidently said, “I think you should be a church planter. Let’s get you into seminary.” Terry gave me ear anytime I needed despite his insane schedule. He gave me wisdom, often without even realizing that he was giving it (and without me even realizing I was receiving it). Like my dad, I had few conflicts with Terry, though the few were epic. Unlike my dad, his death was sudden. 24 hours prior to his passing, I had a lunch and a bull session with Terry that was filled with his usual big laughs and big wisdom. At his funeral, all I could do was confess that I didn’t deserve a father figure like him. Even in death, Terry displayed grace.

And on New Year’s Day of this year, my father in law, Jack, passed. Now, Jack and I knew how to fight, but we also respected and loved each other. While Sam and Terry entrusted me with mission, Jack entrusted me with his daughter, my wife, Amy. Because of that, I have to think Jack had more faith in me than the others. There were times we wanted to strangle each other, and on Christmas Day, I literally had to chest compress him back to life after a heart attack. But just like Sam and Terry, I know that I would not be a pastor without Jack’s influence. Soon after meeting, he encouraged the bible study I was leading to come under his church’s accountability. He asked me to lead worship in singing at his church alongside Amy. He loaned me countless books, and I do not have a number of the John MacArthur tapes he gave me. Even his funeral inspired me. I walked away thinking, “I want to be more Godly.” His passing hurts as it turns the page onto yet another stage of my life, as well as my wife’s. She could easily write, “I am a fatherless daughter,” as she shared similar relationships with all 3 men.

So, at the young age of 45, my formative mentors have passed. Others are beginning to take their place, and I am growing into the role of being father figures for younger men. To my dread, I pray that I can father the young men who marry my daughters.

But my true comfort is this verse from Galatians:

Galatians 4: 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

No believer in Jesus is fatherless. In fact, the fatherhood of the Christian is inseparable and more intimate than any earthly relationship. Our faithful brother, Jesus, has made us children of God, and the Spirit of God moves in our heart (my heart) to cause me to cry out, “Abba Father!” – the most intimate name of God of all. And now, because of that inseparable security, we live not as slaves to sin or this world, but as heirs to God.

Thank you Sam, Terry, and Jack. I know that I am the man that I am and that I am set on a course that is far more joyous and great than any other that I would have chosen.

February 4, 2016 Posted by | church, church planting, family worship, father, gospel, men | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment