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

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

Why Another Book about Men, Elders, and Leadership – AKA The Genesis of “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?”

Good ManThe genesis of “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?” came about in 2009 as I was preaching a series of sermons about the qualifications of an officer.  SK Church was preparing to nominate, and I was preparing to train men from among the congregation to become elders in the church.

By the end of 2010, elders were installed, and throughout 2011 – 2013, I transitioned from being a solo church planter to leading a session of elders.  In every way, I moved from the theoretical to the practical.

All along the way, I discovered deficiencies in my own leadership, gaps in my convictions, and perceived desires of doing it differently the next time.  God’s grace shown through, the church continued to grow, and my thoughts progressed.

By the end of 2012, I was transitioning from SK to plant Evident Grace Fellowship in Fredericksburg, VA.  My thoughts covered everything from building up the men in my future church, sharing mission and vision with families, and starting the process of training officers again.

I realized that the hopes within the Biblical qualifications for officers in the Bible were actually the hopes that should be instilled and developed within every man in the church.   So, my mind returned to the series in 2010.  By December of 2012, I had developed those sermons into a draft, and in the past three months, they have been edited again into “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?”.

My hopes in publishing this book is that God will use it to encourage families, develops men’s programs, and enable pastors to train and install Godly officers.  High hopes indeed, but they are no less than what God promises in the scriptures.  In all humility, I pray that God brings those hopes to fruition.

You can find “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?” in several different formats.

Paperback
Kindle
Nook
PDF
SmartPhone App

July 8, 2013 Posted by | church, church planting, gospel, men, mission, missional, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Pedicure – Sermon Notes from Romans 10:14-21

Sermon audio can be found at http://www.sermoncloud.com/sovereign-king-church/ later this week.

Every since I’ve begun training for the marathon, I’ve had to pay attention to something in which I’ve never even given much of a thought:  my feet.  You just can’t throw on any old shoes and go running.  That might work in the short term, but in the long run (sorry for the pun), you’re feet are going to kill you in you are wearing the wrong shoes.  When I started my training a few months ago, I just put on an old pair of running shoes, and I quickly realized that I was going to have some serious injuries if I didn’t get some new kick.  The new shoes worked but the first week was like running on razor blades.  I took them off from a run, and I had two pretty wicked blisters.  Then I realized that certain socks prevented blisters, so I had to change my socks.  All of a sudden, my feet, to which I barely had given a thought most of my life, were taking up a lot of my attention.

Now forgive me for taking up so much time discussing feet.  For some folks, feet are pretty disgusting, and I must admit, when I those toenail fungus commercials are on TV, I get a little queasy.  I cannot even begin to imagine how dirty and disgusting feet were back in Jesus’ day.  They clearly wore shoes back in Rome, and they even called them an early version of the word “sock” but they really were just loose fitting sandals.  We don’t get socks as we know until the late 1800’s and Nike didn’t produce shoes until 1964, so feet in Jesus’ day were pretty sore, filthy, and probably petty disgusting.  Yet, in this week’s passage, God is going to call those feet, that were dirty and bruised and who knew what their toenails looked like without clippers, beautiful.

They are not beautiful because of any outward appearance, which is always the case in scripture.  Beauty in scripture always comes from within as something lives out the purpose for which it was created.  No, feet are beautiful because of the wonderful and grand mission in which they fulfill.  In fact, they fulfill the mission that God gives to the His people, the church.  So this week, as we continue in our series in Romans, let’s ask this Big Picture Question:

Big Picture Question:  What grand and beautiful mission does God give the church?

Romans 10:14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent?

There is a reverse engineering nature to this verse and it details both how people have faith in Jesus and how the church is to help them have faith in Jesus.  First of how, how do people have faith in Jesus?  A person calls out to Jesus because they believe in Jesus because they heard about Jesus because someone preached about Jesus because that person who preached Jesus was sent by someone.  You see the progression?  People can’t call out Jesus unless they believe in Him.  They can’t believe in Him unless they have heard about Him.  They can’t hear about Him unless someone preaches Jesus to them.  And no one can preach to them unless someone, namely the church, sends them.

Secondly, how does the church help people have faith in Jesus? The church sends someone out with the mission of preaching Jesus.  That person goes out to preach.  Someone hears about Jesus.  That person then believes in Jesus.  Then that changed renewed person calls out to Jesus.

Now amazingly, these are lines upon a continuum.  They are not two separate straight lines, but instead, they are actually a circle.  Let me explain.  You see the church sends out ministers to preach just like Redeemer Church sent me to Garner to preach and start SK.  But the church also sends out its members to proclaim the Gospel.  Any church that is not a sending church is not a church at all.  A church that does not send its people out or does not equip them to send is more of a club than a church.  Churches send their folks.  Here, we prepare and send folks into Garner and the surrounding areas to serve and proclaim and Jesus and hopefully one day, we will send out a church planter to start another church.

So now, I preach and the people of SK proclaim Jesus Christ as the hope for this world’s sin and sorrow.  Someone, somewhere hears that message proclaimed whether it be the coffee shop, the school, the work place, wherever you are.  That person hears the hope of Jesus, the Gospel, and find faith in Him.  Then they call out Jesus to save them.  Guess what happens next?  They become part of God’s people, the church and then they are cared for, trained, and the sent out by the church.  It is continual circle and cycle of the Gospel going forward.  It is consistent with Jesus making and training the 12 disciples and then commanding them at the end of the book of Matthew for them to go out and make out disciples themselves.

That is how we see the mission of the church worldwide as well as SK encapsulated in these verses.  We create community in CE Groups, Fight Club, Project Runway, so we can engage community caring for the EMS, the police, and at the Watering Hole and Sweet Monday, so folks will be brought into create community and start the whole process over again.  This mission must always be protected as the foot soldiers if you will go out on the mission.  And hear is where God calls them and their feet beautiful.  Look at verse 15.

As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Paul’s choosing of image of both the feet of the Gospel and the preaching of the Gospel is not random.  The task of preaching the good news is about going.  It is about putting feet to the message of the Gospel.  You can stand all day in your pantry and yell to the walls that people need to have faith in Jesus but God’s design is that someone has to hear the scriptures for them to believe it.  You can foolishly assume that you live such a virtuous life that people want to ask how you became so Godly, but that rarely happens.  And yes, you can stand on the street corner and yell at people to repent and maybe people are going to respond to the Gospel.  However, putting on the feet of the Gospel is proclaiming the truths of Jesus in word and deed.

It is becoming part of people’s lives, loving with the agenda with grace and change, so that they not hear the preaching of the good news, but the see it.  You have to purposefully place yourself in the lives of people so that you have an audience for the preached word.  Now if you have ever purposefully set out to either tell people about Jesus or to serve them with the hope of telling them about Jesus, you know that just because you do that, that doesn’t mean people are necessarily going to believe.  Because of this, many people give up or never even try to actively proclaim Jesus Christ.  If that has been discouraging to you, you are in good company.

In verse 16, Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah who asked, “Has anyone ever believed from our preaching?”  Isaiah was looking around at the many Jews who didn’t truly have faith in God and wondered if his preaching of repentance was useless.  That might be the feeling some of you have or have had after tirelessly serving Garner these past few years.  You might look around and think, “3 years of hard work and there are maybe 60 people here?  Is this worth even trying?”  I can relate.  There have been days when I wondered if I was just wasting my time.  I’ve wondered if any one has ever believed because I’ve preached.  Isaiah wondered the very same thing.

And God’s response?  17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.  God’s response is, “People come to faith when they hear the preached word of Christ.”  The job of the believer is to proclaim Jesus and the bringing of people to Jesus is the responsibility of God who declares, “I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion and I will have mercy on whom I have mercy.”  Look at verse 18.

18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”

This is the context of the beautiful feet that go with the gospel.  The gospel is proclaimed, Jesus’ name is lifted up and the voice of hope goes out to the ends of the earth.  That’s what we do here.  We proclaim Jesus by serving this community and we will keep on doing it until Garner and the surrounding areas until everyone has heard the Gospel.  Think of it practically.  If this room decided right now that there was nothing that would keep you rrom serving your neighbors and proclaiming Jesus in humility and truth, then if you each did that every day, then the community of Garner would know and hear about Jesus in less than one year.  Would everyone believe?  Nope.  But our job is to reflect the love of Christ in the proclaiming of Jesus to the ends of the earth.  Let’s start with Garner and the surrounding areas.

Paul reminds us of the difficult task at hand in verses 19-21.

19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”  21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

Paul tells us a little story by speaking of Israel’s rejection of God and God’s subsequent bringing in of Gentiles.  Israel did not believe or respond to the prophets calls of repentance.  God then too His grace and truth and gave it to…us…not Jewish folks.  Israel got mad.  They thought that God was their property by birthright.  Through Isaiah, God told them in response, “Um I’m hanging with some different folks now.  Folks that don’t take the grace of God for granted.

You want to know why the Gentiles, and again remember that is us, why we shouldn’t take God for granted?  Look at verse 20.  We didn’t ask God to show Himself to us when we didn’t believe.  God showed Himself to us by His own will.  God controls the revealing of Himself and He chooses to do that through the preached word like Isaiah’s and yours.  Now that is the beautiful message of the Gospel.  The fact that God would use you and me to proclaim Jesus to the world makes you beautiful as well.  The feet of those who bring good news are beautiful.  Now, folks struggle with this.  I know many of you struggle to think that anything about yourself is beautiful.  But here is what makes you and the message of the Gospel beautiful.  Let me read from John 13.

13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him,

3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?

13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This article also appears at the Raleigh Examiner.  Read the article there and help me earn a penny.

November 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Feet – Sovereign King Preview for 11/22/09

Every since I’ve begun training for the marathon, I’ve had to pay attention to something in which I’ve never even given much of a thought:  my feet.  You just can’t throw on any old shoes and go running.  That might work in the short term, but in the long run (sorry for the pun), you’re feet are going to kill you in you are wearing the wrong shoes.

When I started my training a few months ago, I just put on an old pair of running shoes, and I quickly realized that I was going to have some serious injuries if I didn’t get some new kick.  The new shoes worked but the first week was like running on razor blades.  I took them off from a run, and I had two pretty wicked blisters.  Then I realized that certain socks prevented blisters, so I had to change my socks.  All of a sudden, my feet, to which I barely had given a thought most of my life, were taking up a lot of my attention.

Now forgive me for taking up so much time discussing feet.  For some folks, feet are pretty disgusting, and I must admit, when I those toenail fungus commercials are on TV, I get a little queasy.  I cannot even begin to imagine how dirty and disgusting feet were back in Jesus’ day.  They clearly wore shoes back in Rome, and they even called them an early version of the word “sock” but they really were just loose fitting sandals.  We don’t get socks as we know until the late 1800’s and Nike didn’t produce shoes until 1964, so feet in Jesus’ day were pretty sore, filthy, and probably petty disgusting.  Yet, in this week’s passage, God is going to call those feet, that were dirty and bruised and who knew what their toenails looked like without clippers, beautiful.

They are not beautiful because of any outward appearance, which is always the case in scripture.  Beauty in scripture always comes from within as something lives out the purpose for which it was created.  No, feet are beautiful because of the wonderful and grand mission in which they fulfill.  In fact, they fulfill the mission that God gives to the His people, the church.  So this week, as we continue in our series in Romans, let’s ask this Big Picture Question:

Big Picture Question:  What grand and beautiful mission does God give the church?

If you would like to join Sovereign King for worship, we meet each Sunday at 10:30am, and you can find directions to our space at http://bit.ly/1byggC

November 20, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Good Man is Hard to Find: Qualifications of an Elder from I Timothy 3

a-good-man-is-hard-to-find1Sermon audio can be found online at http://www.sermoncloud.com/sovereign-king-church/

The ability to give good gifts is a gift in and unto itself.  Don’t get me wrong.  If a guy buys his wife flowers, he is probably ahead of the curve.  But buying the right gift and giving it at the right time is a rare commodity.  The truest and most sincere gift is one that given specifically for the joy and care of the recipient.  It is selfless and not self-serving.

Now, I don’t necessarily fashion myself a great gift giver.  I’m not ignorant of the need, and I’ve probably given a couple really awesome gifts in my life, but for the most part, I’m probably average.  However, I have received some awesome gifts.  One in particular stands out.

It was in 2005, and I was about to graduate from seminary.  I had never been more broke in my entire life.  I had to defend my thesis, graduate, go through the ordination process, raise money for the launch of the church, sell a house…you get the picture.  I was stressed out.  So being without any extra money, I was spending my free time, if I had any, playing guitar.  That was at least free.  I was also spending my time looking for electric guitars online because I hadn’t owned one in years.  The model I wanted was aptly named the Paul Stanley Silvertone Sovereign Pro.  But my looking was really only wishing as like I said, I had no money.

But then one day, as I was walking up to the front door of my house, I noticed a box from the mailman propped against the door.  When I opened it up, it was my guitar.  The exact model I wanted.  To this day, I still don’t know who bought me that guitar, but it is one that I will keep for the rest of my life.  Every time I look at it, I am reminded of someone’s generosity to me.

Now, God is a fantastic gift giver, and He demonstrates this by giving gifts to the church.  As always, they are like the gifts we give but somewhat different.  God’s gifts are always gracious without evil intent.  Unfortunately, human nature can give a gift and then try to make someone feel guilty about it.  Any of you who have received a gift like this would almost rather have not have it if you have to feel guilty about it for the rest of your life.    God’s gift are always to His glory and rightfully so.  Ours can never be for our glory, and any gift that might be, is not really a gift.  But this one thing we know:  God’s gifts are always good.

Now scripture details a host of gifts that God gives His children.  Some churches emphasize some gifts more than others, but here is a very brief list.

  • Gift of the Holy Spirit –  Acts 10:45
  • Gift of Faith – Ephesians 2:8
  • Spiritual gifts – I Corinthians 12
  • Gift of Jesus Christ – John 4:10

No matter what gift God gives though, scripture commands each believer that their gift should be used in service.  It is not to be kept, guarded, or hidden.  The gifts God gives are always to be poured out in service.  We see this in the Parable of the Talents as well as commanded in I Peter 4:9-11

1 Peter 4:9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Now one gift from God that gets looked over quite often is the gift of church leadership.  1 Timothy 4:14 describes Timothy’s leadership of the church as a gift that was displayed and affirmed by the laying on of hand by the elders.  These leaders are gifted so that the people of God will be led in holiness and wisdom.  Scripture is full of these examples like Moses, David, and Peter.  Of course, as soon as I mention these guys, their faults come to mind, but still, God gifts the church with Godly leadership so that the people of God will not be left to wander alone.

Despite church leadership always being imperfect, every believer is called to submit to these leaders as is seen in Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. By this command, any believer who is presently not in a community, whether that community meets in a building, by a lake, or in a home, where they are actively submitting to church leadership is in sin.  It is the equivalent of telling God, “No thanks,” to the good gifts He has given.

In light of that, let’s answer this Big Picture Question this week:

Big Picture Question:  How is the leadership of the church God’s gift to His people?

1Timothy 3:1-7 – The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Now the context of this letter is Paul writing to Timothy to prepare him for ministry once Paul is gone.  Paul is interested in encouraging Timothy in his personal discipleship as well as encouraging Timothy to continue to disciple and train church elders and deacons.  Paul says that if someone wants to be an elder or overseer, the office itself is a noble calling.  It is noble office because as we saw in Hebrews 13:7, God entrusts the oversight of the souls of His people to the leaders of the church.

The language most often associated with this kind of relationship in the scriptures is the language of headship.  This is when a person or persons leads and represents others before God.  And how things go for them is how things go for everyone else.  The life and health of the people they represent and care for are intrinsically tied to the Godliness of the head.  Adam is the head of the human race in Romans 5.  That didn’t work out too well did it?  The husband is the head of the wife in Ephesians 5.  The husband bears the spiritual responsibility of leading His family in Godliness and I’m sure we’ve seen good and bad examples of that.  Jesus is the head of the church in Ephesians 5.  He by His work has led His people in all Godliness.

And the elders of the church have the noble task of overseeing the souls of God’s people.    Godly and wise church leadership guides the church in Godliness and wisdom.  Ungodly and unwise church leadership leads the people towards sin and foolishness.  I’m afraid we’ve seen both of those in our days and maybe more of the latter than the former.

But if someone desires to fulfill that calling they need to meet several requirements, and these requirements fall into basically 3 categories:

  • Holiness in Personal Life vss 2-3
  • Godly management of one’s household vss 4-5,
  • Spiritual maturity vss 6-7

Now before I go any further, let me make this point.  In fact, what I want to do is dispel a commonly held myth – one in which many of you might hold.  As we look at those 3 categories of requirements, we need to understand this:  elders and overseers, pastors, and deacons are not held to higher standard than anyone else in Christianity.  They are held to the very same standard to which every believer is held.  Let me explain.

There is no such thing as a higher or lower standard or higher or lesser righteousness Biblically.  God has commanded us how to live in the scriptures in accord with His character.  So, there can be no higher obedience than what God has commanded.  If there was a higher standard, then that would be what God commanded.  Let me use the most common example to illustrate how people think about this…drinking alcohol.

Scripturally there is no evidence whatsoever that a drink of alcohol is sinful.  In fact it is commanded by Paul to Timothy, exemplified by Jesus, and even commended in Proverbs 31.  Now some folks will say, “Well drunkenness is a sin, so I’m never going to drink alcohol.”   That is a perfectly fine application and I support it wholeheartedly.  Rock on.  But it is not higher righteousness.  If not drinking at all was the level of righteousness that Jesus wanted, He would have commanded us to not drink at all.  People have this impression of officers though.  They think they should be held to some fictional higher level obedience.  Folks, obeying what God has commanded is hard enough.  Obeying any extra rules is impossible and even counterproductive.

No, the elder, deacon, pastor, and overseer are judged presently for their character whereas most people in the church are not judged at all for their character unless their actions rise to the level of church discipline.  The officer though lives their Christian life for the world to see and evaluate.  In essence, the occupation of the church officer is the occupation of being a believer.  The job of an officer is to be a Christian.

So, a gifted overseer or elder in the church will have a holiness in his personal life.  The phrase above reproach is a summary description of the following 10 Godly characteristics.

  • The husband of one wife
  • Sober-minded
  • Self-controlled
  • Respectable
  • Hospitable
  • Able to teach
  • Not a drunkard
  • Not violent but gentle
  • Not quarrelsome
  • Not a lover of money

Let’s start with the first one:  the husband of one wife.  Well, let’s ask a couple of things first.  Why would this characteristic, whatever it means, matter?  The answer is that an elder, an overseer must be committed and dedicated not given to quitting or impetuousness.   Being an officer of the church requires perseverance in the midst of the most difficult situations.   But believe it or not, this is a very contested characteristic.  Appears simple, but here are some of the questions that arise with this quality.

  • Does this verse mean that you have to be married to be an elder?
  • Does the husband of one wife mean you can’t be divorced?
  • Does this mean that you can’t be a woman and be an elder?

So, let’s eliminate a few things first.  Fist, you cannot be married to more than one woman at a time and be an elder.  That’s clear from the verse, so you can’t be a polygamist which was still pretty prevalent in that day.  Second, you don’t have to be married to be an elder because if being married was a requirement then Jesus himself wouldn’t qualify to be an elder.  Jesus wasn’t physically married, and if Jesus doesn’t qualify to be an elder, I sure as hell don’t want to be part of a church that wouldn’t allow Jesus to be their elder.

So, onto our next question:  can you be divorced and be an elder?  Well, being divorced is not a sin if a person divorces for biblical reasons.  So, since as we mentioned, officers are not held to some false higher standard, and being divorced is not a sin, you can be divorced and be an officer.

So what about women elders?  To eliminate the confusion, Biblically, there is no support for female elders, but I don’t think this conviction comes solely from this verse.  That conviction has to be seen in the larger Biblical context.  Now, as we jump into the issue of male/female elders in the church I would like to recommend 2 books on the subject that have informed me well on this subject.  “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” by John Piper and Wayne Grudem and “Vintage Church” by Driscoll and Breshears.

The qualification of being the husband of one wife does lend some weight to this church’s stance on that issue if it is seen in the larger context. Again, being an elder is about headship and just as the husband is the head of the family, so are elders heads of the church.  Think of it in this way.  God created men and women in the image of God which means that we are equal but last time I checked incredibly different.  It takes the distinctions of both male and female to understand the image of God.  The differences are not merely physical appearance.  I don’t any men who have had babies lately, so obviously the idea of different roles with equality is something that God is okay with.

So men uniquely reflect God’s being a Father with leadership and guidance of His people by being the heads of their families.  Women uniquely reflect God’s creation and compassion by being mothers.  It takes both the headship of the male and the creation of the female to gain a full and accurate picture of the image of God.  Those roles begin to become clear as we walk through the Bible.

Despite the presence of many Godly women in the OT, the senior spiritual leadership of Israel was the male priests.  Jesus taught and trained many Godly men and women but His 12 disciples were male and He appointed them to be the apostles and leaders over the church.  Now, just because the priests were male and that Jesus trained 12 men that doesn’t mean that He doesn’t want well trained females.  God intends for the entire church to be incredibly qualified theologians but He has commanded men to be the elder and teachers.

1 Timothy 3 commands that women should learn quietly in all submissiveness while forbidding them to teach or exercise authority over a man.  Now obviously the verse has been misapplied in many churches where women walk in looking like they are afraid to speak, keep their heads down, and avoid all eye contact.  But by commanding that women learn quietly, Paul was actually revolutionizing the approach towards women for the day.  Paul was saying, “Hey, this is the church.  The women of the church should be as stout as theologians as the men are.  They should learn and no one should prevent them from learning, so men, get over your backward ways, and women, get over your fear.

However, the women are to learn in all quietness.  Now the Greek word for “learning quietly” does not mean total silence as it has been translated and applied quiet often.  “Learning quietly” means learning in a peaceable demeanor.  It means learning in such a way as to be humble and respectful.  Women are to learn these things in submissiveness to authority without taking on teaching roles over the other men.  Now this of course does not mean that women are not incredibly gifted teachers or gifted in shepherding.  Of course they are.  If that’s the case though, why would God say that women should not teach or have authority over men when they can completely function in those roles if they had to?

The answer is that God has appointed the leadership and headship of the church to men.

  • Romans 5:12:  Adam was the head of Eve and the human race and took responsibility for her sin.
  • Ephesians 5:23:  Husbands are the heads of their wives and heads of their families and thus responsible for the spiritual health and teaching of the home.
  • Ephesians 5:23 – Christ is head of His bride the church.
  • In a few verses where we are told that an elder must lead his household well.  Can’t do that you can’t lead the household of God.
  • There are no Biblical examples of headship given to any female.

I know some folks want to say that the commands for an elder are written in such a way because of the male-biased slant of Paul’s day.  I would caution such a view for this reason.  God has written what He wants written in His scriptures.  If the Biblical writers could prophesy and then we see those things fulfilled, why wouldn’t God just command in such a way as to fit our “supposed enlightened” gender views.  God didn’t inspire scripture and then sit around waiting for our egotistical enlightened views of how those things were really supposed to be lived out.  God commanded what He wanted here.

Biblical wisdom finds its highest fruition if it is lived out in the context of God’s command.  Our women here have incredible, Godly skills and talents which include teaching and shepherding.  Deployed as God commands, those skills will find their highest fruition.  Deployed as we think best, they will not and churches who have gone against these commands have suffered for it as witnessed from the denomination that the PCA pulled out from 35 years ago.

Having said those things, let’s walk a little further in understanding holiness in personal life.  Let’s examine what those who will function in the headship of the church should look like.  Let’s look at 2 that are very similar:  Sober-minded and Self-controlled

Being sober-minded doesn’t mean that God is looking for men who never laugh or men who sit in stuffy rooms wearing big hats making decisions with furrowed brows.  Sober-minded really means big picture type guys.  Sober minded is the ability to assess how everything from the direction of the church all the way down to the questions that you have are part of the work of the Kingdom, the work of SK, the work of Christ in people’s lives, and how all of those things are reflective of the truths of scripture.  To be that leader, one must be self-controlled.  Now as I love to do, let me dispel another myth.  Self-control is the ability to say no to bad things like drunkenness, pornography, and anger.  But it is much more than that as well.  Self-control is more about saying yes than saying no.  Self-control is about being disciplined in all areas of life.

This is one thing that the men at Fight Club have tried to grow in.  Godly leaders to exercise self-control in every discipline of life.  They need to be disciplined in praying, studying their scriptures, disciplined in physical exercise and showing moderation in eating and drinking.  No one can expect to show discipline in saying no to temptation if they haven’t already said yes to the disciplines of Godliness.

The next two characteristics that demonstrate holiness in one’s personal life:  Respectable and Hospitable.  These two go hand in hand.  Now, no one can be respected by every single person, but across the board, this will be someone that you look around and say, “Huh, I don’t too many that would not resonate with that person.  They are respectful to me, respectful to others, and respected by most.  If you peak ahead to verse 7, Paul says that an elder has to be so respectable that even those outside the church, non-believers respect them.  Essentially, if the world doesn’t respect you, then the church won’t either.

  • The key to being a respectable Godly person is being hospitable.  Every Christian is commanded to be hospitable because in doing Matthew 25 says that we are serving Jesus Christ Himself.  People can disagree with your theological convictions all day, but if you serve them, they will respect you and that service in and of itself with provide for you a platform to proclaim the Gospel.  These two qualities, respectable and hospitable, are where you should look for people within SK who embody the mission of this church (creating and engaging).  If they aren’t doing those things, they cannot lead you well.

Another and a very important qualification for an elder:  Able to teach.  This is one of the distinctions between being an elder and deacon.  For the most part, the qualifications are the exact same, yet your shepherd, your elders should be able to teach.   Now the ability to teach is not something a person can proclaim about themselves unless it has been affirmed by others and here specifically affirmed by the leadership of the church.  Teaching is not exemplified by the ability to explain but exemplified by others ability to learn underneath a person’s teaching.  Teaching is tied to other qualities.  If you aren’t honorable in your home, or if you aren’t sober-minded or self-controlled, if you aren’t respectable and hospitable, it doesn’t matter how smart you are, you will not be a good teacher because most will not want to learn from a person who is not those things.

Let’s try just a few more before we wrap up for this week.  You cannot be an elder and be a drunkard.  This goes back to the issue of self-control.  God wants disciplined believers and disciplined church leadership.  You cannot be an alcoholic and be an elder.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t have been one and have recovered to sobriety, but it does mean that you cannot be an alcoholic.  If you are one who is controlled by either your access or lack of access to alcohol, then you cannot lead God’s people because you are driven by something other than your desire for God.

Two more:  Not violent but gentle and Not quarrelsome.  Are you a gentle person?  Do people walk in fear of either your fist or your tongue or do people find themselves resting in your presence.  Do you love arguing everything from theology to politics to sports?  I don’t mean debating the BCS vs a playoff system or a flat-tax vs. income tax.  I mean do you love arguing?  Do you value being proven right more than value relationship?  God does not want quarrelsome men leading His church.  This is a tough one because many Christians fashion themselves excellent debaters when what they really are discontent quarrelsome men.  How do you know the difference?  Well, are you violent?  Do you regularly hurt people either with your tongue or with your fists?  Do you enjoy putting people down with your speech?  If you don’t know if you are or not, ask your children or your spouse if they think you are gentle.  If they struggle to answer or are scared to answer that you are those things, you are probably disqualified to be an elder.

And finally for today, an elder cannot be a lover of money.  This is tough one for the American church because we are so rich.  In America, if you qualify for welfare, you are in the top 10% of wealthiest people in the world, so American’s have a lot of money.  The question is, “Do you love money?”  You know, for as much greed as I see, even with the church, and as much as church’s struggle too meet budget, I’ve met very few Christians who will admit that they love money.  So how can you tell?  I’ll make it as clear as possible.   Do the works of your hands whether they may be at a job, the spending of your income or the debts you choose to take on, do they serve the work of the kingdom as a faithful servant or do they seek your own pleasure and enjoyment?  If those things serve your comfort and enjoyment first, you love money.  If they serve the kingdom first, you don’t.

Folks, this list should make each and every one of humble.  They are guidelines by which all of us should examine ourselves and Godly characteristics to which we should all aspire.  Even given to teach.  We all should know our scriptures well enough to speak to them in an instructional fashion.  As it comes to nominating Godly men, you are looking among this congregation and asking yourself, “Are there any men that are either these characteristics or men who are radically being transformed in their direction?  No one apart from Jesus will embody these things perfectly.  You have to see who is most set apart in becoming these qualities.

Continued next week.

This article also appears at the Raleigh Examiner.

October 18, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

SK Video Sermon Preview for 101809

Silvertone_Paul_Stanley_Sovereign_ProTomorrow (10/18/09) is the kick off of Sovereign King’s “Lead, Follow, and Getting Out of the Way” series on church leadership.  A good friend recommended that 90 seconds to 2 minutes was about as much as most folks would watch for a video clip, so this week I tried to edit myself a bit better.

Below the clip are the 3 related articles to this series.  Look for the sermon notes on Sunday evening.  Thanks.

Related articles:

The Gift of Giving Good Gifts

Lead, Follow, and Getting Out of the Way

There is No Higher Standard

October 17, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gift of Giving Good Gifts

boyfriendpillowThe ability to give good gifts is a gift in and unto itself.  Don’t get me wrong.  If a guy buys his wife flowers, he is probably ahead of the curve.  But buying the right gift and giving it at the right time is a rare commodity.  The truest and most sincere gift is one that given specifically for the joy and care of the recipient.  It is selfless and not self-serving.

Now, I don’t necessarily fashion myself a great gift giver.  I’m not ignorant of the need, and I’ve probably given a couple really awesome gifts in my life, but for the most part, I’m probably average.  However, I have received some awesome gifts.  One in particular stands out.

It was in 2005, and I was about to graduate from seminary.  I had never been more broke in my entire life.  I had to defend my thesis, graduate, go through the ordination process, raise money for the launch of the church, sell a house…you get the picture.  I was stressed out.  So being without any extra money, I was spending my free time, if I had any, playing guitar.  That was at least free.  I was also spending my time looking for electric guitars online because I hadn’t owned one in years.  The model I wanted was aptly named the Paul Stanley Silvertone Sovereign Pro.  But my looking was really only wishing as like I said, I had no money.

But then one day, as I was walking up to the front door of my house, I noticed a box from the mailman propped against the door.  When I opened it up, it was my guitar.  The exact model I wanted.  To this day, I still don’t know who bought me that guitar, but it is one that I will keep for the rest of my life.  Every time I look at it, I am reminded of someone’s generosity to me.

Now, God is a fantastic gift giver, and He demonstrates this by giving gifts to the church.  As always, they are like the gifts we give but somewhat different.  God’s gifts are always gracious without evil intent.  Unfortunately, human nature can give a gift and then try to make someone feel guilty about it.  Any of you who have received a gift like this would almost rather have not have it if you have to feel guilty about it for the rest of your life.    God’s gift are always to His glory and rightfully so.  Ours can never be for our glory, and any gift that might be, is not really a gift.  But this one thing we know:  God’s gifts are always good.

Now scripture details a host of gifts that God gives His children.  Some churches emphasize some gifts more than others, but here is a very brief list.

  • Gift of the Holy Spirit –  Acts 10:45
  • Gift of Faith – Ephesians 2:8
  • Spiritual gifts – I Corinthians 12
  • Gift of Jesus Christ – John 4:10

No matter what gift God gives though, scripture commands each believer that their gift should be used in service.  It is not to be kept, guarded, or hidden.  The gifts God gives are always to be poured out in service.  We see this in the Parable of the Talents as well as commanded in I Peter 4:9-11

1 Peter 4:9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Now one gift from God that gets looked over quite often is the gift of church leadership.  1 Timothy 4:14 describes Timothy’s leadership of the church as a gift that was displayed and affirmed by the laying on of hand by the elders.  These leaders are gifted so that the people of God will be led in holiness and wisdom.  Scripture is full of these examples like Moses, David, and Peter.  Of course, as soon as I mention these guys, their faults come to mind, but still, God gifts the church with Godly leadership so that the people of God will not be left to wander alone.

Despite church leadership always being imperfect, every believer is called to submit to these leaders as is seen in Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. By this command, any believer who is presently not in a community, whether that community meets in a building, by a lake, or in a home, where they are actively submitting to church leadership is in sin.  It is the equivalent of telling God, “No thanks,” to the good gifts He has given.

In light of that, let’s answer this Big Picture Question this week:

Big Picture Question:  How is the leadership of the church God’s gift to His people?

Related Articles:

Lead, Follow, and Getting Out of the Way

There is No Higher Standard

October 16, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment