Grace Emerges

Friday, October 7, 2016

Welcome to the )open(church!

by Brad Duncan

Hi! My name is Brad, and I’m trying to change the face of Christianity.

Like me, most Christians want to change the world. We want to share God’s love. We want to share the transforming and contagious power of grace and freedom, which comes from knowing God and opening up to the good things that God wants to bring to us.

The message of Jesus was that the kingdom of God has arrived on Earth to bring God’s love to mankind. It arrived when Jesus came to Earth, but it didn’t leave! It remained here as the church. Jesus continues to work through us, bringing good things to the world.

Most Christians are signed up to be a part of this great work that God is doing. We believe the church is the continuing work of Jesus, with ongoing guidance and help from the Holy Spirit.

However, unlike me, many Christians are pretty happy with the job the global Christian church is doing. If I take a survey of Christians I will find a strong sentiment that they don’t want to change the church very much or lose what they have built. They wouldn’t want it to change, and are concerned about the declines in church attendance in our country. There is a well-known drift away from church these days, toward individual spirituality but away from Christian community. But the world needs the church, and we need each other.

I want to start the ball rolling – and start a discussion of how the church could change. Let me start with a bit of background about myself, and then let me take you through a description of what I see as the major challenges the church is facing today. After that I want to propose how we can respond to those challenges. If we respond with a willingness for significant transformation of what we are doing as the church, together we can change the face of Christianity.

How my heart changed


Let’s start with me. I have a unique perspective on how new ways of thinking are needed. I have two special-needs kids. Both are highly intelligent kids, and the adults in their lives always tell me how brilliant and refreshing they are to talk to. 

However, they don’t fit into the usual cookie-cutter educational system. 

They both have their quirks and challenges that make it virtually impossible for them to perform under demand in a large classroom setting. They can't take tests, deliver reams of homework, and even get along socially without major changes to the approach to education compared to the majority of kids. From what I’ve heard about 80% of kids nationally fit well into the standard educational approach, while the rest, well, they struggle for one reason or another that could be remedied using a more individualized approach.

Fortunately my family moved to Massachusetts 10 years ago (my boys are now 18 and 13), which is possibly the most progressive state for education in the US. Though they struggled many times, the system was able to adapt to them. My older son was sent to a small private school, paid for by our town, and now he is about to graduate as a well-adjusted and happy teenager who knows what he wants to do with his life. I could not be prouder!  

My younger son has an IEP in the public school. That stands for Individualized Education Plan. He gets a number of services and individualized attention in the school, but he gets to stay with his friends and participate in the mainstream to the fullest extent possible. For him, it is a good fit and he is doing well. On the other hand sometimes we have to remind the teachers of the accommodations listed in the IEP – so they don’t expect the same production on demand of work that other kids can do. He will simply shut down if pushed like that. 

Both kids showed me that you have to find the individual creative ability in each child and unlock it, for them to succeed. You can’t depend on the old tried and true system to meet their needs. Many of the kids in our country that don’t fall into the 80% mainstream are struggling. States are cutting education budgets, and class sizes are increasing – all fall outs from the recent recession. Nationwide, we need to increase our attention and resources for education. Other states should follow the example of Massachusetts in my opinion.


There’s more. My wife has a super-rare disease. It doesn’t even have a name yet and so is described in 6 long words. Doctors couldn’t explain why she had a stroke 5 years ago that landed her in a wheel chair. Numerous tests and 12 neurologists later, we finally found out what was going on. A specialist in medical genetics suggested that she have a skin biopsy to measure her nerve count, and she was found to have less than 1% of the usual count of small-fiber nerves. This is probably happening due to an overactive immune system which is destroying the nerves. This affects pretty much every system in her body. Fortunately, with this nerve biopsy test result she was able to get into one of the few clinics that treats this disease, which happens to be in Boston near where I live. 

Again I thank God for the progressive thinking in Massachusetts! The treatment is mostly new and not fully accepted by medical practices. But it is really helping! With the help of IVIG treatment (immune globulin infusions), my wife’s disease is stable and not progressing. The nerve counts are staying about the same but she can keep fighting the disease and holding ground against it getting worse. It was a hard adjustment to live with chronic disease, but I thank God for “stable” every day! However the usual medical establishment failed to help my wife. Only the most leading edge, new approach, had anything to offer.


Then, there’s my work experience. In my job I work to bring transformative technology to the automotive industry. I work for a software company that helps the world design cleaner, more efficient cars and trucks. Convincing manufacturing companies to switch their process to use new software is always a challenge. They have an entrenched process that involves building hundreds of prototype vehicles by hand and testing them in labs, on test tracks and on the road. The software I helped to design can change all of that, and companies can use a computer-driven process to design the vehicle much better and much cheaper! It’s exciting! It requires a new way of thinking, and willingness to let go of a more hands-on, but less effective, process. It requires trusting a virtual process where the car or truck exists in software long before it is driven on the road.

The Church?

Maybe because of these factors in my own life, or maybe because of some root inclination in my own spirit, I have always questioned the church. In fact, I feel that all of us are both qualified for and tasked with questioning the church.  As we know and understand, WE are the church, and WE need to get this right.

Definitely my questioning intensified in the last 5-10 years, and I started blogging and participating in the broad online movement to make Christianity more progressive.

It starts with “why”?

Why is the church designed and operated the way it is today? What is its mission, and is it accomplishing that mission?

After multiple times of working through these questions, I have improved my own understanding of the forces and issues facing the church today, and further, how I believe that we can respond to these issues.

We can’t sit still – if we see ourselves in the mirror and find that we need to change something, the only right answer is to embrace positive change. In Christianity we call this repentance! It simply means that we are willing to change our thoughts and actions, in response to what God is saying. With a humble attitude of repentance, the church too can change.  WE can change.  

More coming soon!...

These posts are excerpts from a full-length article and presentation.  For more information or the full documents, please email me at

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