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

Why Does the Music Start Before the Sermon Ends…and Other Thoughts

confetti bombMorning Friends,

As of late, I have tried to expand my listening habits to take in pastors who I have typically neglected.  This list includes pastors of some of the megas who don’t usually show up on my “theologically sound” list but do show up on the, “Let’s grow big list.”  My motivation hasn’t been to try to jump into the megachurch arena but merely to know more about what is happening in our church cultures.

I don’t include their names here as I am not trying to take folks down but only learn.  My goals have not been to throw stones or even to disparage.  It appears that God is doing great things in churches that don’t run their sermons through a theological or confessional grid.  There are pastors gifted with incredible speaking skills.  There are pastors who have much to teach all of us.

And there are some who almost none of that matters.  To my ears, their sermons scream, “Run away.”

So, please allow me to run through some personal pros and cons that I have gathered lately.  I offer them as lessons that I have learned, and in the reading, you have the choice to throw out either the baby or the bath water.

Pros:

Every congregation needs hope.  No matter the text, no matter the passage, and no matter the church venue.  Hope is significant to the scriptures and significant to the human heart.  The pastors of the churches I have heard do a great job of offering hope.

Every congregation needs to be engaged.  These pastors do a great job at engaging their folks.  Preaching is different than teaching.  Lectures are not preaching.  If folks feel like they are listening to the pastoral equivalent of someone reading a dictionary (ala a list of facts to be assimilated), they will checkout mentally.  Their growth may very well be limited to the Biblical equivalent of a Fantasy Football League team.  You know a lot, but to what purpose?

Cons:

A sermon that preaches change without addressing sin and repentance is just empty motivation speaking.  If the primary point of the pastor’s message is about your missing out on God’s blessing and your living at a higher level, but all the talk skips the issue of sin, be wary.  Believe me, I’ve been to the dour faced, “All we talk about is sin,” depressing churches.  That is not what I’m talking about.  Repentance is walking in one direction and then turning and walking in another.  That is how the scriptures define change, and offering grace in the face of sin to motivate and sustain is true change.  Not doing that is rah rah pep talk.  It only motivates for a season.

A Christian sermon must ultimately be about and point to Christ to be Christian.  Casual references to Christ are only casually Christian.  If Christ is unnecessary for a sermon, then anyone from any religion could preach it.

If the music starts in the background 5-10 minutes before the sermon ends and then rises to when the pastor gets to the frenetic, high energy climax of his sermon, you should feel emotionally manipulated.  That is just classic, emotional, crowd manipulation.  The Stones, Zep, Kiss, etc perfected that technique years earlier.  It might work in terms of crowd reaction, but be prepared for the drive home/post sermon emotional crash.

And so, I’ll listen to a few more sermons in the next few weeks.  As a disclaimer, I am not saying that only the pastors of the megas are guilty of these cons.  Many pastors are.  For example, I know the music starts early in tons of churches.  I just don’t trust why they do.  This was simply an exercise and a collection of observations of my own in the past few weeks.

Thanks,

Gordon

August 31, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Death of the Death of Ministry in the Death of Jesus

Sunday, August 3rd, will be the final worship service for Sovereign King Church in Garner, NC.

Much like many of you, I wept when I heard the news.

Unfortunately, ministries, churches, and pastors come and go.  As one friend reminded me, “Everything in this world has a lifespan.”  And though death, endings, and even graduations are something we grow comfortable with, they are never pain-free.  While numbers vary, some estimate that between 3,000 and 4,000 churches close their doors each year.  The question I wrestle with (and I imagine others do as well) is, “How is the death of a church redeemed?”

Towards that end, individual stories make up the end of a church.  This is my portion of SK’s.

 Redeemer Church and Eastern Carolina Presbytery sent me and my family to Garner in 2005 with the commission of an evangelist to do what is called scratch planting.  Scratch planting, also known as parachute planting, is when you move onto the field without anyone previously committing to help start a church.  You start from scratch after you parachute onto the field.

We launched quickly with coffee shop bible studies, blogging, and community service.  Soon, we gathered 20 or so people together and huddled with Christ our Comfort, PCA (now Christ the King) as they replanted.  The 40 to 50 of us gathered each week in the old YMCA building (also now non-existent) on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, NC.  Eventually from those humble beginnings, SK grew to a consistent 70-80 in worship with vibrant chaplain ministries to the police and EMS in addition to service ministries to a local women’s shelter.

In hearing that, one might ask, “Well, what happened?”

There is no scandalous story here.  There is no corrupt tale of money-laundering or sordid affairs.  It appears that through God’s providence, things have just come to an end.  People moved on to new jobs.  Some preferred a different music style.  Vibrancy of ministries became lukewarm.  Things just came to an end.

I can’t speak to the philosophy of ministry presently at SK as I left to plant Evident Grace Fellowship in Spotsylvania, Va. nearly two years ago, but I know that their pastor, their elders, their families, and all the congregation have been faithful.  Perhaps, and hopefully, many of them will add their voice of thanks to what has God has done in Garner through Sovereign King because there is so much to celebrate…

Relationships with Christ deepened.

The homeless found Christ, education, employment, and even marriage.

Broken marriages were restored.

A young man and his family suffered a tragic car crash and were loved and served.

Police officers came to know Christ.

Children in the church made professions of faith and took their first Lords Suppers.

And most significantly, the saving faith of Jesus Christ was raised and defended in the marketplace of ideas in that small town.

This apparent death is not a useless, hallow shoveling of dirt on the casket of yet another church.  In Christ, all death is redeemed.  Some of those redemptions may not be seen immediately, but in God’s grace, many of them will be apparent (even in this lifetime).

I’ve been a pastor in some sense for over 10 years now.  Redeemer Church sent me out to plant Sovereign King.  I left Sovereign King to plant Evident Grace.  Most of our children will leave their home church to prayerfully worship and work at another when they become adults.

The death of Christ and His glorious resurrection mean that the curse of death and ending is redeemed with continuity and eternity.

While SK won’t be gathering in its present form each Sunday in Garner, the pastor, elders, and members will be sent as missionaries to points on the compass that aren’t even known at this point.  And that truly is the hope of this applied resurrection.  As another friend reminded me, the worship of Jesus is never restricted to a specific address.  Out of the death of this church, countless others will arise, and Christ will be glorified…now in even more places each Sunday.

In death, it is right to mourn, but that mourning is not pointless, nor is it morose.  It need not be comforted with platitudes and moronic, thoughtless expressions.  Christ is risen, and His church and His people are risen with Him.  His fame goes forward.

God did so much for His glory in His people’s heart and in the town of Garner.  He still will beyond SK.  His name is forever praised in the heart of many, and the legacy of Sovereign King is one drenched in the hopeful Gospel of Jesus resurrection.

I hope other people add to this story.  So much needs to be shared and even learned from it because where Christ is lifted up, you will find His people.  Where you find His people, you will find the hope of the resurrection.  Those stories deserve to be told.

And I can’t wait to learn what happens next.

August 1, 2014 Posted by | church, church planting, gospel, mission, missional, Uncategorized | , , , | 3 Comments

Increased Communication Enables Greater Ministry

communication“Increased communication enables greater ministry.”

The thought is that as Evident Grace grows in communication, we will grow in loving and serving one another, and we will grow in learning how to love and serve our community.

This is what we want as we see our sermons and bible studies talked about and applied in our lives.  This is what we want as we learn how to help each other serve our neighbors.  This is what we want as we grow in serving our community as a church.  So towards those ends, we have established a few new avenues for us to communicate with each other.

We have a created a physical church directory that you can pick up on any Sunday worship.

We have updated our website http://www.evidentgrace.com with a ton of new information.

Audio of our sermons is now available in two places:  at http://evidentgrace.com/worship/sermons/ and at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/evident-grace-fellowship/id873994915?mt=2http://evidentgrace.libsyn.com/rss

Our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/evidentgracefellowship is continually updated.

You can now follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/EGFellowship

And we have launched the Table Project which is an online home to enable person to person communication.  If you would like to be part of the Table project.  Send a request from https://evidentgrace.tableproject.org/

Our goal is that these things will help us get to know each other and learn how to serve.

May 10, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Appeal of Christ

appealD.A. Carson lists 8 motivations of the Gospel appeal of Christ.  In Tim Keller’s “Center Church”, he combines and simplifies them into 6.  I felt they were incredibly helpful for us as a young church as our unified desire is and must be proclaiming the Gospel to each other while continually sharing the Gospel with those who do not yet know Christ.

In our last sermon, we also addressed a broader approach in speaking about the Gospel than just merely “turn or burn”.   While this list is by no means all-encompassing, I think it hits the mark pretty well.  Tell me what you think.

When sharing the Gospel…

Sometimes the appeal is to come to God out of fear of judgment and death:  Hebrews 2:14-18 speaks about how Christ delivers us from the bondage of fear and death.

Sometimes the appeal is to come to God out of a desire for release from the burdens of guilt and shame:  Galatians 3:10-12 speaks of our curse of the law.

Sometimes the appeal is to come to God out of appreciation for the “attractiveness of truth”:  1 Corinthians 1 speaks of the wisdom of the cross being the consummate wisdom to be known.

Sometimes the appeal is to come to God to satisfy unfulfilled existential longings:  In John 4, Jesus speaks of being living water to those who are thirsty.

Sometimes the appeal is to come to God for help with a problem:  Carson calls this a “despairing sense of need”.  The woman with a hemorrhage (Matthew 9) and the two men with blindness (Matthew 9) approached Jesus with practical needs.

Sometimes the appeal is to come to God simply out of a desire to be loved:  Throughout the Gospels, Jesus’ humility, tenderness, wisdom, His love, and grace draw people like a magnet.

I hope this is helpful and even inspiring to you to speak of Jesus to someone who doesn’t know Him yet.  I also hope it is appealing to any who do not yet know Jesus who are reading this.

February 14, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Icy Gospel Ramblings

So many changes in one year.

So many changes in one year.

Icy days move me to reflection (and apparently, random reflection).

This coming Monday, January 13th, will be one year ago that my family moved to Va.  We packed up, crashed with some friends, and asked, “Hey, who wants to help plant a church?”

At that point, we had acquaintances here, but no deep friendships.  Now, we have deep friendships and a growing congregation.

But even more than what is going on in the Duncan household, God is moving among us in the Spotsylvania area.  Honest, gospel conversations are happening each day.

Jesus is being spoken to people who don’t know Him.
Jesus is being spoken to people who want to know Him better.
Jesus is being spoken to those who know Him well but crave for more.
And Jesus is being spoken in places in which we are unaware.

Like my buddy, Andy Stager, says, “Gardens aren’t launched; they are planted.”  As it goes, Evident Grace is gradually growing and continually being planted.  Right now, we are in the work of planning, pruning, seeding, and reseeding.  We pray for growth and flourishment to honor Christ.

All of this makes me dizzier than the seizures I’ve worked through in the last year, but the big difference is that this dizziness is a lot more enjoyable.

I’ve been challenged a lot lately towards this end:  Preach Christ and not Evident Grace.  Invite people to Christ and not just to a worship service.  That is a good reminder and an obvious challenge of faith.  I know it is a good and right one though.

So, thanks for the icy rambling.  Just like driving in this weather, I write them carefully and hope to arrive at my destination without too much damage.  I hope the same for you.

January 7, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

Evident Grace Preview for January 5, 2014

1.1-6Tomorrow, we are going to begin our “Ephesians” series.  So, let me detail a few things as we begin.

At Evident Grace, we value that the best way to understand a book of the Bible is to walk line by line through it.  This is called understanding a book exegetically or from my perspective, it is called exegetical preaching.  Every now and then, that means we look at some pretty strange verses, but this will give you a deeper understanding of the book and that will keep me honest as I can’t just skip around to whatever verse I want.

Also, if we are going to fully grasp whatever any book of the Bible is attempting to communicate, we need to know a bit of the book’s background.  So, if you don’t mind, let me tell you a bit of the history of Ephesians.

The Apostle Paul wrote this while sitting in a Roman prison somewhere between 60 and 64AD.    The sole reason that Paul was in jail was that he preached salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ and that Jesus was king.  The local governments didn’t care who you worshiped but that person couldn’t be the king of the entire world.  That title was reserved for Caesar.

So as Paul sat in a nasty jail, he wrote this letter to the church in Ephesus.  Paul had visited them earlier in his life, but since that visit, the church grew a great deal.  So, some of those receiving this letter would have known Paul really well, while others would never have had the chance to hear him or interact with him.

With all of that in mind, as we read and study this book, we should notice two themes.  The first theme is that Christ has repaired the broken relationship between the sinful world and God.  That repair is permanent and ultimate and accomplished.  The second theme is that now, Christ has created a worshiping community, the church, that is made up of all kinds of people, not just Jews, but all races.

And the wonderful thing is that this letter is written to this church out of affection and care.  Paul is not writing it out of a need for rebuke against a specific sinful teaching or against some incorrect belief or doctrine.  That’s rare these days but would have been even more rare in Ephesus.  Ephesus was a city full of heresy and even occult practices, but this church seemed to be free of those things for the most part.

So Paul is going to get started here reminding the Ephesians of how their relationship with God began, and then he wants to build on that understanding.   On that point, I think Evident Grace can relate.   For the past year, we have attempted to build a foundation of the gospel at Evident Grace, and now, I hope we can build on it.

In 2014, Evident Grace is going to continue to build on the foundation of the gospel.  We are going to build on the gospel in our worship services.  And I hope that through our Evident Grace groups, kafasoto and Bushiban groups, we can build on the gospel there as well.

So let’s look at the foundational teaching that Paul explains and pray that God will remind us of those things as we study the book of Ephesians.  And the first foundational gospel teaching that Paul gives us is the wonderful truth that God adopts us out of sin to be His child, and He does those things for His glory.  So with that in mind, it is going to be no surprise that we hope to pursue this Big Idea:  Our security is that God has adopted us for His glory by His will.

Having said that, please join us this Sunday.  We meet at 10:30am at the comedy club above Liberty Lanes.  You can find directions here.  Please come as you are, and we look forward to meeting you.

January 4, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Sample Chapter from “Family Philippians”

familyphilippiansThe design of “Family Philippians” is to enable families to worship together.  Towards that end, each chapter has four sections.

A section of Philippians to read.

A brief time of explanation.

A few questions about the reading.

A guided prayer time.

As families work through the book, they will eventually read the entire book of Philippians together and get to enjoy and complete thought in scripture together.  Enjoy this chapter from Philippians 1:12-14 as an example.

Philippians 1:12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

 

In this section of Philippians, Paul is writing a letter to the Philippian church while he is sitting in a prison.  You know what a prison is, right?  It is the place criminals go when they break the law.  Do you know why Paul was in prison?  Paul was there because he told people about Jesus.

Can you imagine that?  Can you imagine that if you told someone about Jesus you would go to jail?  That would be pretty scary.  But Paul did that, and here is the amazing thing.  Paul was thankful.

What would cause Paul to be okay with going to prison?  Well, Paul was glad that the gospel was being advanced.  That means that Paul was excited that people were talking about Jesus.  Not only was the church talking about Jesus, even his prison guards were talking about Jesus.

And you know what?  The church wasn’t scared about going to prison either.  In fact, seeing Paul go to prison and telling people about Jesus made the church even more bold in talking about Jesus.

How can that happen?  Aren’t people supposed to be scared about prison?

Well, Paul and the Philippian church trusted God.  They were okay with however God wanted people to know about Jesus.  That takes a lot of trust and a lot of faith in God.

It is scary to think about going to prison or people being mad at you because of Jesus.  But is it exciting to think that God will help us no matter what happens.

Questions

Here are some questions to think through and answer with your parents.

Do you ever talk about Jesus when you are not at church or with your parents?  Why or why not?

 

Have you ever been afraid to talk about Jesus?  Why?  Describe that time.

 

Ask your parents for examples of when they have talked about Jesus.

Prayer

 

As you think about those things, maybe you and your family could pray about them for your family and your church.  Would you?

 

Pray with your parents for boldness to speak to others about Jesus. 

 

Pray with your parents to trust God no matter what happens.

 

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

Amazon Paperback
Amazon Kindle
Nook


 

October 2, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bedside – A Memoir of Care” Released Internationally Today and Stateside 9/17

bedside coverI’m excited to announce that “Bedside – A Memoir of Care” in honor of my mom, Ann Duncan, is available internationally today and will officially launch stateside on Tuesday, September 17th.

Recounting stories ranging from her humorous interactions with my dad to her singing heavy metal with me in the 80’s to her figuring out how to take care of us with little or no money, “Bedside” is intended to shine the spotlight on a wonderful woman who quite often shunned it.

She was Godly.  She was sweet.  She was cute.  And she shaped my personality and character in ways that words on paper cannot perfectly recount, but I have done my best.

“Bedside – A Memoir of Care” can be found in most digital formats and is available worldwide.

I pray your readings bring great memories, a bunch of laughs, and even a few tears.  Thanks.

“Bedside – A Memoir of Care” can be found at the following locations:

Amazon Paperback

Kindle

Nook

CreateSpace Paperback

PDF Download

Every now and then, companies will make them available ahead of time.  Click and see.  Thanks.

September 16, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mom Sings Heavy Metal – An Excerpt from “Bedside – A Memoir of Care”

bedside cover sampleEnjoy this excerpt from “Bedside – A Memoir of Care”

Back in the mid-80’s, I would listen to a show on the local college radio station called “Chainsaw Rock”.  Anytime a song came on that I wanted, I would record it on a cassette tape, so I would always have these rough mix tapes full of 80’s metal lying around.

I remember driving the station wagon with Mom as we were making the last delivery of the day which typically was delivering flowers to the hospital.

One day, my mix tape was running through whatever songs I had recorded, and I was singing along.  Mom was doing something with her purse when all of a sudden, I heard her lowly sing, “I wanna be somebody, be somebody too.”

Nothing wrong with those lyrics, huh?  The funny part was that Mom was singing along with me to a song written by the band WASP.  WASP was a disgusting band that threw raw chunks of meat into the crowd and the lead singer drank blood out of a skull.  Whatever the shock factor, they were for it.

Here was this four foot, ten inch, pastor’s wife with a cute little bun on top of her head singing along to one of the bands that launched the whole PMRC censorship battle with Tipper Gore.

“I wanna be somebody.”

I decided not to embarrass her, but instead, I just looked over and said, “I love you, Mom.  You are awesome.”  She looked back, and said, “I love you, too.”

After that, she stopped singing, but every now and then, I would catch her humming along.

“I wanna be somebody.”

“Memoir” will be available on September 17th in multiple formats:

Paperback

Kindle

Nook

Availbe now in PDF Download

Every now and then, companies will make them available ahead of time.  Click and see.  Thanks.

September 13, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment