J. Gordon Duncan

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Worship Should Remove Anonymity

v-for-vendetta-maskThis is our 3rd post in our ongoing worship series.  You can find the first two here and here.

In the book of Ezra, as God returns His people from a time of exile, we find that God sends thousands of them back home to begin rebuilding the temple.  In chapter two, there are 70 verses of names.  These are the people who are sent back to start that difficult work.

Why in the world would God include 70 verses of almost unpronounceable names?

Well, determining why or why not God would do something is a dangerous game.  However, we can take away a couple of important principles.  Including these names shows the value and dignity that God gives each individual as they make up the people of God.  In the midst of those thousands, God wanted the individuals and families to be known.  God was working among His people, but He was stirring individuals first.  And we give those names honor and dignity in their reading.

The inverse is true as well.  Yes, we are saved into a personal relationship with Jesus as we cry out in faith for the forgiveness of sin.  That personal relationship is also part of the larger work that God is doing within the church.

But what application should this have for our worship?  Worship removes our anonymity.

No Christian, no child of God, should ever be nameless or faceless in the church.  The church should be the one place that understands that each person is valued.  As any person enters our doors or enters into our communities, they should be treated with dignity, and they should be on the progression of being known and known well – not as a number, but as a person.

Does this mean that larger churches are getting it wrong as they have so many thousands to get to know?  No, reading the book of Acts and seeing the thousands coming to know Christ would argue against that.  However, the church (and especially our worship) should be about each person becoming known as they are known by Christ.  We should reach out across socioeconomic (and pretty much any other lines) to know each other well.  So, big or small, the church’s emphasis must be about bringing people to deeper intimacy with Christ first and then deeper intimacy within the church.

These things must be grounded in a worship of Jesus creating a thankfulness for His work that draws us out of the loneliness and deserts of our lives.  Worship should be an eye to eye experience of the many becoming one in lifting up the name of Jesus.  That should mean that the focus of our worship cannot be about us.  The focus of our worship must be on the name of Jesus as He alone is what unifies us.  No mission, no takeaway, no benefit will ultimately unify us and remove our facelessness.  Jesus alone will give us a true name and a true face.

A lonely person among the people of God should be an oxymoron.

We are known well by Christ as we cry out to Him.  Our worship should be moments where we engage each other in an act of unity, and all the other elements that go into the functions of the church should move people towards deeper relationships under the name of Jesus.

You may ask, “But aren’t there portions of the service that do create isolation and alienation like the Lord’s Supper?”  In our next post in our worship series, we will wrestle with how a worship service can speak to both believers and non-believers without creating an unnecessary alienation for those who don’t believe.

September 15, 2014 Posted by | church, church planting, family worship, gospel, men, mission, missional | , , , , | Leave a comment

When Nothing Goes Right in Worship

This is our second post of worship observations. You can find our first here. This week, we talk about when things don’t go well – a common challenge for young churches.

At Evident Grace, we have been meeting for a year and a half. For church planters and church plants, a year and a half feels like five regular years. Each Sunday, you feel like you are taking giant leaps forward as you become more efficient in everything from setup/takedown, greeting, music, children’s ministry, etc.

And then there are the Sundays where you feel like you take giant steps back. It feels like you have never met for worship before.   No one seems to get anything right.

Here is my encouragement, fellow planters and young churches:  While each good Sunday feels like five years ahead, an off Sunday is not a five year setback. Let me give a painful example.

This past Sunday, we were launching a new series, “Journey to Worship – a Study of Ezra”. Excitement built fairly well, and several folks joined in to help with a decent amount of web/social media promotion. While I am given to hyperbole like many church planters, I could realistically say that folks were pretty excited.

But things didn’t go as planned.

For some reason, from the onset, I stumbled over my words. Apparently, I said that, “Christ was circumcised for our sins.” While true in one sense that was far away from my wanting to say that He was crucified for our sins.

I was leading our music as well. Leading a crowd in singing is something that I have comfortably done for over 25 years now, but apparently, comfortable was not yesterday. I couldn’t get into a groove no matter what. In fact, the team finally stopped one song and just began again.

My sermon was never was comfortable either. I felt rushed. I felt the need to over-explain everything, and I continually lost the ability to pronounce most every world.

We made plans to take the Lord’s Supper, but our elder wasn’t able to make it, so the elements remained lonely on the table – something we had to explain to our congregations and visitors.

I left assured that no one was ever going to show up ever again.

But here is the encouragement to my heart and to yours, young planter and young congregation. Our worship is not about professionalism and perfection. While starting songs together and ending them together is preferable, while a commanding sermon delivery is helpful, neither of those are necessary for worship. Worship must always be about grace. Worship must always be about the lifting up of Christ. Grace and Christ equal worship. Preciseness is a bonus.

Yes, you seek to improve in every area. You learn from things that go both well and poorly. You practice and study more. You offer areas that continue to struggle to God in prayer. And then you give thanks for what happens.

So, this week, we will work towards getting the songs right and pronouncing the words correctly knowing that Christ will once again meet us on Sunday. If we make mistakes, we haven’t stepped back five years.

Christ will be lifted up, Christ will be honored, and we will be transformed. We will wait for eternity for mistake free worship.

 

September 8, 2014 Posted by | church, church planting, family worship, gospel, men, missional, publishing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Going to the Beach and Growing in Obedience

summer_rentalEphesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, and God went so far to insure that we become like Christ that He mapped out the whole plan for you to His glory.  This is an incredible hope for us to trust in, but sometimes, it feels ephemeral and far off.

I enter in this lightly, but let me attempt an illustration.

Most everyone loves going to the beach, but going to the beach as a parent is not like what it was when I was in college.  In college, all it would take was a couple of folks saying, “Hey, you want to go to the beach today?” 15 minutes later, we were on the road.

But now, with kids, it takes coordination with the NSA, FBI, and Homeland security to get out the door.  You have to pack bathing suits, towels, sunscreen, flip flops, paddle balls, umbrellas, coolers, juice boxes, food, and pretty much every other device imaginable.  And why do parents do all of that?  Pretty much so the kids can have hours of fun and you as a parent can enjoy the beach for about 30 minutes.  Maybe you are able to get a couple of cool pictures to post on Facebook and Instagram, but even that is not guaranteed.

That’s a shadow of what God has done for you.  Just as God chose you before “let there was light” was even declared, God also prepared beforehand that you would grow in good works and obedience.  Your obedience is just as sure as your salvation because God prepared for it.

The good news is that God never tires and He always enjoys the good works of His children.  Parents often wonder, “Why are we doing this” when they apply the tenth layer of sunscreen.  But your obedience is planned by a never tiring Father, your growth is secured by the work of Jesus, and your growth are essential elements of the masterpiece that God is creating in His children’s lives.

So, today, as you grow weary in wanting to mature in Christ, as you are tempted to give up, remind yourself that God has already made plans to grow you.  The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus provide for both a sure forgiveness and a sure maturity for you.

There will be struggles, and there will be setbacks, but the Gospel of what Jesus has done, provides hope.

February 10, 2014 Posted by | church, family worship, gospel, men, mission, missional | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Huge Black Friday Sale at Gospel Rich Books

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Gospel Rich Books is offering wonderful Black Friday Sales.  They are going to last from Wed until Sunday.  We’ve lowered the price on all of our pdf downloads.Check them out.

A New and Undying Vocabulary is now FREE.

A Once and Future Samson is now FREE.

5 Steps to Publishing Your Own Books is now FREE.

Family Philippians was $2.99 and is now $.99.

The Gospel Protects was $2.99 and is now $.99.

Joy in Trials was $2.99 and is now $.99.

Teletivonetting was $2.99 and is now $.99.

I am my father’s son was $2.99 and is now $.99.

Is a Good Man Hard to Find? was $2.99 and is now $.99.

 

 

November 27, 2013 Posted by | men, mission, missional, publishing, ruth, self-publishing | , , , | Leave a comment

“I am Bedside”

i am bedside hardcoverThank you for the incredible response.  Now, you can purchase the limited edition, two-in-one “I am my father’s son” and “Bedside:  A Memoir of Care” hardback in honor of Thom and Ann Duncan just by clicking the button below or the photo to your right.  Thanks.

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

October 25, 2013 Posted by | church, church planting, family worship, gospel, men, mission, missional, publishing, ruth, self-publishing, training men | , , , | Leave a comment

Commemorative Two-in-One Hardback Editon of “I am my father’s son” and “Bedside” entitled “I am Bedside” Available Now

i am bed combo cover largeLast night, as Amy was settled in and as I was comfortably asleep, my oldest daughter, Meredith, gently walked into our bedroom with tears in her eyes.  She had just finished reading my edit copy of, “I am Bedside”.  This is a hardback combination edition of the book I wrote for my father, “I am my father’s son” and the book I wrote for my mother, “Bedside:  A Memoir of Care”.

She approached our bed gingerly (as I don’t wake up gingerly), crawled in like she used to do when she was little, and snuggled.  She told me she loved the book, she missed her grandparents, and that she loved me and Amy.  Then she went to bed.

That was all the affirmation I needed.  I wrote each of the books for my parents as an opportunity for me to celebrate and remember who they were, but I also wrote them to remind my children and others of Thom and Ann Duncan so that their memory will never be lost.

I’m excited that Gospel Rich Books is releasing this commemorative hardback edition of both books in one entitled “I am Bedside”.  This will be a limited run of 250 copies and available for a limited time.

Thanks to all who loved Sam and Ann.  Thanks to all who have purchased these books.  Thanks to everyone who loved them as much as I did and still do.

You can purchase copies here, and please leave a note to let me know if you enjoy it.

Thanks.

October 22, 2013 Posted by | church, church planting, family worship, gospel, men, mission, missional, publishing, ruth, self-publishing, training men | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Family Philippians” Available Everywhere

familyphilippiansIntroducing, sharing, and explaining our faith in Christ to our children is the desire for many parents.  How do to that is not always that easy.  Additionally, the structure of families is not always consistent.  Some families don’t have children.  Some families include grandparents, many have step-parents, many are solo parenting, and a few have both mom and dad.

In light of all of those intricacies, how in the world do we introduce and deepen the faith of our families?

While each of the described above deserves its own book, this one is designed to help families with children.  And since, the makeup of those families may look different in every household, we will typically just address “parents” and allow you to customize it as you read it.

But the central idea is to create a simple, easy to approach book for you and your kids.  So towards that end, “Family Philippians” was created.

As you work through these pages, you and your family will walk through these steps.  Each chapter will give you a section of Philippians to read, there will be a brief paragraph to explain and deepen an understanding of the passage, there will be a few questions to answer, and then, there will be a guided prayer time.  At the end of the book, you will have covered the every verse of Philippians.

Ideally, each chapter should take no more than 10 minutes, but hopefully, that investment will last a lifetime.  As you undertake this adventure, please know my prayers accompany your efforts, and I would love to hear from you about how it all goes.

Thanks,

Gordon Duncan

You can find “Family Philippians” as a pdf download here, and also at

Amazon Paperback
Amazon Kindle
Nook

September 29, 2013 Posted by | church, church planting, family worship, gospel, men, mission, missional, publishing, ruth, self-publishing, training men | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Origin of the Title “Bedside – A Memoir of Care”

bedside cover sampleMom spent her life sitting bedside of those she cared for, and I was fortunate enough to have a tiny opportunity to return a measure of that love and care to her.  Enjoy this excerpt…

One injury as an adult sticks out the most.  My first job out of college was teaching high school English at an alternative school.  To “qualify” for my school, you had to be expelled from one of the county’s other schools.  The staff was small (four-five teachers), the hours were long, and I absolutely loved it.

Early on in that first year, the four of us were riding together back from a county-wide training session.  We were together in our science teacher’s Jeep Cherokee.

As we were riding along a country road, an animal of some sort jumped out in front us, and our driver swerved into the other lane.  As she did, I yelled, “Look out,” as we were now in the path of an oncoming paint van.  That’s right:  we were now facing a van full of cans of paint.

We collided full-speed, head-on both at 55 mph.

Our jeep was spun around, the van’s grill was crushed, and there was paint everywhere you could imagine.

We all survived with various concussions, broken bones, and soreness.  I had a gash on my forehead, was incredibly sore, but was, for the most part, okay.

I remember waking up in the hospital and finding Mom sitting by the bed and Sam standing beside her.  Even as an adult, they had come to take care of me.

They both took me home and put me to bed.  They spent the night, and I slept for about twelve hours.  I remember waking up in the morning incredibly sore and a bit disoriented.  I walked into the kitchen to find my mom cooking for me.  She quickly rushed me back to bed and told me I was to spend the day lying down.  She had chicken soup for me, and of course, she had made cookies.

Mom wouldn’t let me out of bed all day.  She would come to me and stand bedside and check on me throughout that entire day.

Mom worried a lot about me, and not just on that day.  But as I looked at her by my bed in my apartment, I felt like she loved the opportunity to take care of me once again.

Fast forward eighteen years, Amy and I are sitting bedside, and I am holding Mom’s hands in the moments before she passes…

I’m sad but thankful for the opportunity in a small way to return the love she gave to me.

The remainder of this story picks up in “Bedside – A Memoir of Care” – you can find it at

Amazon Paperback

Kindle

Nook

CreateSpace Paperback

PDF Download

September 19, 2013 Posted by | church, church planting, gospel, men, mission, missional | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bedside – A Memoir of Care” is a Tribute to the Moms Who Sacrifice

bedside coverEnjoy this excerpt…

Mom sent me off to college with a hope and a worried look.  My parents couldn’t afford to pay for my tuition, and I had only graduated from high school a few months prior.  I wasn’t the most mature guy in the world.  Mom was sweet and brave to send me off, but she was also incredibly concerned.

Since she couldn’t send money regularly, Mom offered whatever else she could.  And since I was dating a girl at another college, I came home a lot that first semester.  This was where Mom could help out.

Most weekends, I would come home with dirty laundry and return with a basket of clean clothes.  This would save me a couple of precious buck’s worth of quarters each week, and I think Mom secretly enjoyed it.  I eventually took this over as I broke up with the girlfriend, but every single time I came home, Mom would ask if she could do laundry.  I, of course said yes.  Mom actually appeared to get upset as I took the clothes washing over myself, but she always looked forward to the holidays when she could do it herself.

I would also come home hungry and return with as much food as my Mom could provide.  Typical gifts were Mom’s amazing homemade sugar cookies and leftovers of whatever Mom and Sam had for Sunday lunch.

But there was one more thing Mom always offered.  At that time, my wonderful Aunt Alice worked at a Pizza Hut.  Their norm was to let the employees take home any leftover or messed up orders of pizza at the end of the night.  Aunt Alice would give Mom any pies that she could, and Mom would freeze them all week for me to take them back to college.

So each Sunday afternoon, as I would head back to good old East Carolina University (ECU), Mom would load me up with pizza.  But still there was a challenge.  I didn’t have a cooler, and even if I did, my little car didn’t have much room for it.

So, Mom devised a plan.  She would break the pizzas into their individual slices, put them in several gallon Ziploc bags, and then she would put them all in trash bags full of ice.  That way, I could transport the pizza easily, I could freeze certain bags, and my portions were pretty much already laid out for me.

That was always a helpful thing when this college student didn’t have a meal plan and had to eat each meal with two dorm fridges, a toaster over, and a microwave.

When it came to meals, the two Shehdan sisters took care of me.

Very excited to announce that “Bedside – A Memoir of Care” can be found everywhere today.  But to help you out, you can find “Bedside” at the following locations:

Amazon Paperback

Kindle

Nook

CreateSpace Paperback

PDF Download

September 18, 2013 Posted by | gospel, men, publishing | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bedside – A Memoir of Care” is Available Now

bedside cover sampleVery excited to announce that “Bedside – A Memoir of Care” can be found everywhere today.  But to help you out, you can find “Bedside” at the following locations:

Amazon Paperback

Kindle

Nook

CreateSpace Paperback

PDF Download

September 17, 2013 Posted by | church, church planting, gospel, men, mission, missional, publishing | , , , | Leave a comment