Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Letter 2008

Dear Family & Friends

Can you believe another year has passed? Of course this also means that it is time for another McDuffie Christmas letter. This year has again been jammed packed with happenings, not to be mistaken with one of the worst movies of the year, “The Happening”.
Anyway, let’s dive right in. When we left off last year the church plant was not taking root into the community very well and we were unsure of what direction God was taking us. In April of this year we celebrated one year as a church. It came with little fanfare, but it was a special moment for those who had persevered. In September, we put on a series called PureSex. It gained more media attention than we ever could have imagined and many people were upset that we were allowed to meet in a school because we were a church, but little more came of it than that. (You can Google it if you want.) What we thought was the beginning of a new start for the church, was really the beginning of the end. It wasn’t long before I went through the seven stages of grief, I could not believe this was the end. It felt like two and half years down the drain. In October, God led us to do three things. First, I taught through a great book called Wild Goose Chase, second, we started a small group studying what I consider to be the best Bible study of our generation called “Experiencing God”, and last but not least, God also began to speak to me that the church plant was coming to an end. I fought with God for awhile, but decided He has always known best before so I finally gave in. November 30th was our last service as a church, and on December 7th we merged with our parent church who is struggling itself, But, we had no doubt that God was leading us. I am currently the associate pastor with Central Baptist, with co-preaching duties. It has been an eventful few months to say the least.
To be honest, I have no idea what is next, but I know God is in control. A perfect example of this came along in the past few weeks. With the close of the church plant, we took a pretty big pay cut to stay on with Central, as my salary came from different sources. After working through the budget, we realized we were going to have to move which was heart breaking to us, and we were not sure if we were going to be able to stay the course as we had already been forced to move for the third time in the past few years in April of 08. It’s a long story, too long for this letter, but our landlord wanted to live there instead. Anyway, as soon as we resolved that we would be faithful no matter what, God provided. Our landlord called and lowered the rent by $200 a month the next day. WOW, what a God we serve!
During the summer, we took some friends from the south up the mountains to the North of the city to grill some burgers and enjoy the cool mountain air. As we were just about to eat, a bug landed on our daughter’s arm, which she is terrified of by the way, and she starts running around in mindless circles and then BAM, right into a concrete table. She fell backwards with thud. It was one of those moments where you wanted to laugh, but she got up screaming so you had to be sure she was ok first. She keeps our hands full for sure.
In other news I still work for Starbucks as a shift-supervisor; Stacy took on a new venture and has been leading the PowerPoint and sound ministry for both churches this year, Aurora turned four in June of this year and of course, is again thrilled about the coming of Christmas. All in all it has been a very eventful year. A year that has dealt us some tough cards, but as we went through the valley, we found out how faithful our God truly is.
As I come to a close, I can’t help but think that I can’t wait to see what news next year’s Christmas letter will bring. If you want to stay up to date feel free to follow my blog at
May the celebration of Christ’s birth be a blessed time of year for both you and your family!
Merry Christmas,
Jeremiah, Stacy, & Aurora Rose McDuffie

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

God Always Comes Through!

There are times in life when you have to take a step back, take a deep breath, and jump in the water. When you say, "I am still in this until God pulls me out". These are usually moments when God shows up in big ways, where you stand amazed at His work. Stacy and I just experienced such a moment.
To be honest when we figured out that with the loss of income from merging the churches that we would have to move again, we were about ready to throw in the towel. It was our breaking point. As I have been talking to God, I have been discussing with Him how I don’t know if we can do this again, a fourth move, maybe a fifth in three years, not with everything else that has happened. I came to a point though were I told God, “If you want to move us we will stay faithful to this call until you call us somewhere else”. I took a deep breath and jumped in again with God, "whatever your will Lord, we will follow". We had already packed twelve boxes and told our landlord the situation. This was also hard for me because I believe the Bible teaches us to keep our agreements, and I have never broken a lease before. We were down in the dumps Thursday through Saturday. Then God gave us a really good, fun, worshipful, relaxing day on Sunday. Exactly what we needed to lift our spirits, and then yesterday the news came. Our landlord calls us, it’s been about a week since she got the news, and says, “what if I lowered the rent to $750”. That’s a savings of $200! We sat down looked at our current budget, and what do you know, we can’t spend any more than $750 without stretching ourselves to thin.
I am absolutely amazed as time and time again God has answered our faithfulness, with faithfulness. I praise God for His provision, and I thank Him for keeping a promise. You see in the scriptures it says that God will not give us more than we can bear. God knew that Stacy and I were at a breaking point, and as we held on to Him He came through for us. If you are struggling today, I encourage you to hold on to Him, because He will never let go of you.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Really God?..."Moving and searching"

Do you ever have those moments where you are like, “Really God, really?” Yesterday evening I had one of those moments. In fact I thought that very thing, “Really God, really?” “Can a guy catch a break?” Here we are packing again…the fourth move in three years. Since this move is most likely to a month to month place we could make it five moves in three years. With the closing of ECC we can no longer afford to stay in our current house so we are moving again, this time something month to month or a very short lease. You might be wondering about all the other moves, but only one of them was our idea. The rest were God, leases, and landlords. I am trying to get a grip on this...Is God trying to teach us something, and if so what? We are trying to be good stewards with our money, yet with this move we are throwing a $950 deposit down the drain by breaking our lease (something I have never done), not to mention more moving cost. I would just like to know why? Is this our “high cost” of following Christ? Did we do something to offend you God?
The truth is I am kind of searching for my place right now. I know God led us to merge ECC with Central, but I am still unsure of my place in all of that, oh I have a title and all, but it is little more than that to me. It’s where my heart is that matters to me, and to be honest I am not sure where it is right now. I have no doubt that God has led and worked through this adventure that has been Tucson, AZ to this point, but I have no idea what is next. As cheesy as this sounds I’m reminded of line from a song from the 80’s by Michael W. Smith called “Place in this World”. It says, “I am looking for a reason, roaming through the night to find my place in this world, my place in this world. I need Your light to help me find my place in this world, my place in this world”. I know who I am I am in Christ, I know who God has called me to be, but I am not sure where that fits now, or what it looks like.
For now I am doing what I know. I know God called us here; I know He called us to help merge ECC to Central, and I know we have to move, or eat up all of our savings…so I guess I am going to go pack some boxes.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Running, Dying, and My Church Planting Journey Pt. 2

After a good night sleep, Starbucks open, and a shower I have recovered enough to write the promised part 2 to last night’s blog. I mentioned one of the songs I listened to was “It’s My Life” by Bon Jovi. Now although I enjoy running to the song it got me thinking, it’s not really my life anymore. The day I acknowledged that Jesus is Savior and Lord of my life I gave up that right, it’s now His life to do with what He chooses. In fact it got me thinking about us as a church, and I mean all of us who claim to be Christ-followers, especially here in America. I wonder where we get off sometimes. What right do we have to expect comfort, or the easy path? That spits in the face of everything Jesus taught us about the high cost of following Him. The problem is that we who claim to be Christ-followers all too often live as if it is our life. We pamper ourselves in every way we can think of and we forget, it’s not about us. It’s about something much greater, the cause of Christ in this generation.
This is where it gets more personal for me. My wife and I with our small daughter left friends, family, and the land we love to answer God’s call to be a part of what He is doing in Tucson, AZ in April of 06. Simply put if GA was the land that I loved, Tucson, is the extreme opposite, I just didn’t know it yet. In April of 07 we started a church, and last month in November of 08 we closed its doors, metaphorically since we never owned a building, forever. God has led us to lead a merger of this church with another and overall the idea has some hints of insanity to it, but we are 100% sure God is leading it. People ask, “So do you think it will work?” I don’t know! What’s work? I know God called us to the church plant, and in normal human terms it failed miserably. The thing is though, I believe it was God’s plan for it to fail, for us to merge, and for…well that part is not written yet. You see when it’s our life we get wrapped up in how others will perceive what is going on, but in Jesus’ kingdom a cup of cold water in His name has eternal reward. So here we are not because we want to be or this is our dream, but because this is where God has placed us to be a part of the most important cause of my generation, the generations that came before me, and all the generations to come and that is the cause of Christ! This is not my doing, this is not the way I would do things, but this is God getting a hold of one guy, and getting him to step out of the way and let God work through him. It’s not what I can do, what I want to do, or how I think it should be done, but it is Christ working in me and through me. You see since I am a Christ-follower it’s not my life, but His.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Running, Dying, and My Church Planting Journey Pt. 1

So I am changing directions tonight. I went for a run tonight. 3 MILES!!! I skipped around in my i-pod nano starting with “Loose Yourself” - Emeniem. This was a mistake as that song always gets me going so I started out to fast, I then slowed it down with the “Chariots of Fire” theme song…you know the one. LOL. Then I listened to Vanilla Ice w/Korn singing the metal version “Ice Ice Baby”, LOL. I know, I know, but it got me moving again. It was then a smooth transition into “Ridin’ Dirty”- Chamillionaire. By this time my heart feels like it is going to burst out of my chest. Good thing for me the movie place I was returning my rented movie was right there. After a short minute break I got going again to a forgettable song, and then “The Final Countdown” - Europe, came on. I was dying, plus I can never get through the end of that song so I skipped to my pleasant surprise “Smells Like Teen Spirit” - Nirvana, which got me rocking again. I then came to a strong finish with “It’s my life” - Bon Jovi, and “Rebirthing” - Skillet.
Ok so now you know my song list, I have an interesting taste in exercise music, and that I must be out of shape if half way through a 3 mile run I felt like I was going to die, which by the way I am in some serious pain. Seriously though I am going somewhere with this one, or as one of my old preachers says, “Don’t get off the bus yet folks, were going somewhere”. LOL! I could really go all kinds of places with this one but I am going to keep it personal. “Loose Yourself” is the way I started out this church planting journey, guns blazing, I then had to back off the peddle, “Chariots of Fire”, but jumped right back with an upgraded weapon ready to take on the world “Ice Ice baby”, and “Ridin” Dirty”. I was able to keep that pace for a bit, but I was so spiritually out of shape I started sucking air big time. That next stage truly was forgettable, but then I felt a slight pick me up, but it was just a passing thing. I was dead, “The Final Countdown”. Feeling like I could not finish. Suddenly new life struck, “Smell Like Teen Spirit”, I was truly juiced. I got a little selfish for a bit “It’s My Life”, and then began to realize what I knew in the beginning and that is that “it’s not about me”, “Rebirthing”.
Right now you are probably thinking how did he come up with that out of those songs, and while he was dying on a run? Simple, I didn’t, God did. You see when we begin to seek after God He can and will use anything and everything to speak to us and we must have spiritual ears to hear what the Spirit of God would say to us. God spoke much more by the way, but that will have to be saved for another blog as I am in so much pain I don’t think I can go anymore. The truth is not long ago I was there too in my spiritual journey, but through Christ I have persevered and come out the other side. More to come…

Monday, December 1, 2008

God Speaks...Pt. 5 "The Why Factor"

You ever wonder the why in a situation? You know God is at work and leading you, but you’re not exactly sure what He is up too. That is kind of where we are right now. I honestly don’t know why it was time to bring ECC to an end, except that God spoke it, so we followed. We still had financial backing, we were still in it for the long haul, and our core was still committed. This is not a money or numbers decision. It is a God spoke, we listened and obeyed thing. God has given us a glimpse as to the why, as our parent church, although having no debt load has come upon finically hard times. I am still amazed as they knew that supporting us the way they did would drain them, yet they stuck with it all the way. I have so much respect for Pastor Travis, the man I am now co-pastor with at Central Baptist, our parent church. The easy thing to do when this financial news came would be to say it’s time to cut Jeremiah off the payroll, yet he has done the exact opposite, suggesting that his salary package, not mine is the problem. He has been here 20 years, is near retirement, and owns a home here. Even now he is looking for a part-time job so that the church can cut his salary so that we both can stay on and lead in this merger. I thank God for his example of putting the cause of Christ in this genration first and foremost.
This Sunday will be the official merger of Central and Element. Our first service together will also bring about much change for both churches from musical styles, co-pastors, and the canceling of all programs as we seek who God would have us become as a church. It is a huge step of faith for all in involved. So we have some of the why, ECC is coming to an end because we are supposed to become a part of Central Baptist, but from there each step is really a step of faith, God has not given us the big picture, but asked us to step out with Him. I can truly say with all of my heart, “What an exciting place to be”.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

God Speaks...Pt. 4 The end yet the beginning

When we moved to Tucson, AZ we were absolutely sure it was God who was bringing us here, but we had no idea what was to come. Moving to Tucson has cost us more than we ever imagined. It tore at our marriage and family as we encountered strong spiritual warfare, we have had to move three times since moving here, it has cost us financially, and is about to cost us more. We had big dreams of what God could use us for, and of what we could do for Him. Here we are two and half years later, and everything we dreamed seems to be shattered. It seems we have gone through all of this hardship for no reason. It almost begs for the question to be asked, why did we move here? What was the point of it all? The dream that had become Element Community Church after today will have died.
When we moved to Tucson I got so busy for God that I forgot what God wants most, an intimate relationship with me. I stopped seeking Him, and started doing. It was not a decision I made, or anything that happened in a day, week, or even a month, but as the group Casting Crowns say in one of their songs it was a “slow fade”. All of sudden without realizing it I was trying to do everything on my own and failing big time! I think what amazes me most is how much God used me despite of myself getting in the way. I came to the point where I could no longer hear God speaking because I never spent any time with him, and I was miserable.
This past summer God began to grab my attention. It started when I was able to go to FL. for a few days to a conference and Rick Warren spoke. God used him in a mighty way in my life, and I waited around to say thank you, he hugged me and whispered in my ear, “Don’t give up”. I knew God had used this man to speak to me as I needed what he said in that moment. Finally, after so much silence, I had heard God speak. I did not realize at the time that God had not stopped speaking, I had just stopped listening. During the summer we saw some great things happen as God led us to step out in faith. We adopted a refugee family of 7 from Iraq and have helped them adjust to America, and have been able to be a witness of the love of Christ to them. We adopted a church plant “The Foundry” and supported them with both man power, and financially. We joined with over 1,800 churches worldwide in a series called “One Prayer”. And finally we did a series through the book of Habakkuk. That series touched my wife and I very personally as God gave us a very clear picture of why we had gone through everything we had up to that point. God first had to do a great work in us before He could do anything through us. He had to bring us to a new place of intimacy, security, and trust that we did not even knew existed.
As the summer moved on God started to move me back to an idea I had let die. Granger Community Church did a series on sex, an upfront biblical perspective, on dating, marriage, and sexual relationships. It had been a dream of mine to bring this to Tucson, and it got shut down at every corner. Then one day I prayed and said, “God if you don’t want this to happen then I am ok with that. I give it to you”. The next day everything from the space we were trying to rent, to the finances to advertise were falling into place. We advertised big, put together a top grade website, and rented a huge space at a local high school. The media grabbed a hold of it, and it even got national coverage. I knew this was going to be the beginning of us as a church, from here we take off. God had another idea. What I thought was the beginning of something great, for God was the beginning of the end.
By October after much wrestling with God I knew I had to go to our parent church. I told God after the holidays, He kept saying now. I decided God knew best and went to pastor Travis, the pastor of our parent church, and told him the news. That same week we found out that our parent church was in bad financial shape. The big question for us was what to do with the people who had become the Element Community Church. We could merge them with our parent church, but the truth is that idea seems a little crazy. A similar church plant was defiantly the way we should go, but God had other ideas. Central Baptist a very traditional church, and Element Church, a very non-traditional church are going to combine. After much struggling with God I know without a shadow of a doubt that God wants me to help lead in this merger. So next Sunday these two churches will become one. Like I said, to me it seems crazy, but I am so sure God is in this that I have perfect peace. Here we are on the brink of the end and I have a perfect peace that passes all understanding. I am excited about us ending, because I know God is orchestrating our future. In fact, I have no doubt that God orchestrated the closure of ECC, and although I don’t understand it, I am ok with that! A huge part of all of this has been God speaking to me through a book called “Wild Goose Chase”, which I highly recommend, and a small group Bible study we are doing called “Experiencing God”, which if your open will change your life forever. I am again finding out what it is like to walk and talk with God.
So here we are, the end, yet the beginning. I do not know what the future holds. I do not know that we are not joining with Central just to help ease their death, but I do know that right now in the midst of this storm I am in the center of God’s will, and that is a wonderful place to be. I know that God is going to provide for my family even with the pay cut I will have to take to be a part of this merger, and more than anything I am again learning the sovereignty of God and that He is in control of all things.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

God Speaks...Pt. 3

When I left off, we were in Toccoa, GA, and much more still needs to be said about our time there. It still amazes me that God did so much in us and through us in just two short years. When we were at Zebulon, God began to speak to me that I needed to put in for the open pastor position. God and I had long talks about this as I told Him how I was too young, did not have enough experience, and was un-educated. He must be mistaken because there was no way He could use me, at least not yet. I couldn’t lead a church, but things began to happen, and He used His Word and His people to speak mightily into my life. To this day, I don’t doubt that call! I remember two members of the search committee sitting down with me, and most of the conversation is a blur, but I knew that when they told me that I was not the pastor for them, that one thing needed to be conveyed and that was that I would support their choice, and would not dare touch God’s anointed! You see, the conversation was not a surprise to me because God had already prepared me for their response, and had told me to support the choice. It was a huge lesson in getting self out of the way.
The burden for full-time ministry was still very heavy on me, and God began to lay a prayer on the hearts of my wife and I. “Here I am Lord, send me”. God had spoken into both of our lives that I was going to be a pastor now, not later; school was put on the back burner to seek after God. We put our house up for sale, believing God was going to move us. Although we had no doubt that God had spoken, I will admit the next season was hard, as this time we really had to wait on God. At some point in this process, I talked to the Tucson area church planting strategist, and then basically told him, “NO WAY”! Well, in God’s divine plan He kept my information, and passed it on to Central. Their plan was to have someone start something new to keep a legacy going, as they were beginning to fade. After much conversation, we came out for a week to meet them and the city. Before we even came, we were pretty sure God was calling us here, but after the visit we knew. We set a date to move that God laid on my heart, and we closed on our house the day before we left. It was truly a God provides moment.
You might be wondering how I am so sure God spoke. I had been through part of the study by Henry Blackaby called Experiencing God, and in it we learned through God’s Word, that He speaks through His Word (the Bible), His people, prayer, and circumstances, or as I like to say, super-natural circumstances. God spoke through all four of these ways when I applied at Zebulon, when we put our house for sale, and when we responded to the call to Tucson. Thus starts the Tucson chapter.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

God Speaks...Pt. 2

When I think of our time in Toccoa, GA four words really describe our time there; “God Speaks” are the first two. As soon as we moved there, God began to call me to intense times in His word and prayer. The Word was definitely alive, “Living and active” as it is self-described. It truly cut into my heart, “Sharper than any two edged sword”. When we moved to Toccoa, my wife and I had this idea that this was going to be a time where we still went to church, but where we served a little more than we were going to serve. Selfish I know, but the truth is we had a baby on the way, I had plans for school, and we had just bought our first home. We found the perfect church with lots of people our age and great programs, the perfect match…so we thought anyway. That was not God’s plan though. As we both knew, God was stirring our hearts to something else. We attended another church, and then another, and then God brought us to Zebulon Baptist Church. It was funny because of everything about Zebulon looked like a bad fit, but we both knew that was exactly where God was leading us. It did not take long before we felt led to become members there. That’s when the fireworks started.
It was right around then that we began to realize the pay cut I was given with the company I was with at the time was not going to provide, but because of the weird hours, 11-8, it was hard to find anything else that could help us. It was also at this time that I was asked to fill in at Zebulon to preach. God’s timing with Zebulon never ceased to amaze me as I was asked to preach and lead music many times, our song director and pastor stepped down, and each time I was given $50. I can’t tell you how many times that money was a miracle in our lives, right when we needed it most. You might have figured out the other two words by now, “God provides”. Man did He ever! I will never forget our first Christmas in Toccoa. We had no money to buy that weeks groceries much less Christmas dinner, or presents. I prayed and I prayed for a Christmas miracle, and did we ever receive one. As we had poured our lives into the people at Zebulon during this tough time in the church’s history, they gave back to us in a big way. Stacy’s mom sent up like a million presents and all of sudden we had everything I had been praying for. I firmly believe sometimes God says no, but this year he showed us He was the God who could! To this day, I believe it to be the most magical season in our lives. I’ll never forget the woman who walked up to me in Wal-Mart and said, “You don’t know me, but I heard you could use this”. She slipped $100 bill into my hand, walked away and I never saw her again. As we come into this season of thanksgiving, I am so grateful that God gave us those hard times, because we truly learned that He is the God who provides. There is much more to this chapter in our lives, and it will have to be saved for another day, another blog.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

God speaks...Pt. 1

I have some stuff to say. I am not sure if this is for anyone but me, but you are welcome to read.
I feel I need to go back, way back to when I was six years old. It was at the age of six I first heard God speak. At the time, I don’t know that I even knew that it was God speaking, but that was when I acknowledged Jesus as Savior and Lord of my life, and the Bible says that I can only come to Him if He calls. I knew I was a sinner, I knew I wanted heaven, and didn’t want hell, and I knew Jesus died for my sin. That was more than enough for me.
To be honest, I don’t know that God spoke to me again until I was sixteen, He might have, but I must admit, I am not sure I was listening. At the age of sixteen though, God used a girl I was dating to speak to me. I still find this ironic, because, well let’s just say we did not have a God honoring relationship. Anyway, she started really getting on me about having direction in my life. One night she convinced me, and I went home and locked myself in my room. There I was in a broken down room, filled with the smell of mildew, and I started to pray. I then opened my Bible in a method I don’t recommend, but God still used and let it fall open, and with my eyes closed I put my finger down. It landed on Romans 8, I began to read and as the Lord was stirring me He stopped me at verse 28 and said, “You are the called, you are going to be my minister”. An interesting side note to this. I find out a year later that God had used this verse mightily in my Papa’s (grandfather) life, and he had claimed it as his life verse years and years before. That night I began to yield my life to that call.
The next two years were up and down as Satan waged war to keep me from following God’s call. God worked some miracles in my life during this time trying to get my attention. Like the time I was driving on a mountain road and fell asleep at the wheel, and God gave me a dream that I was about to drive off a cliff and it scared me so bad, I woke up just in time to turn before I would have driven off the cliff. Then, there was my bike accident where I tore up my mouth so badly the doctor said, “I don’t know if you will ever be able to eat normal foods or speak correctly again”. Within months, through much prayer from friends and family, I was able to do everything I was able to do before, and my agnostic doctor proclaimed, “I wish I had taken before pictures, because this is a miracle”.
At the age of 18, I started to pray for a wife who was seeking after God with all her heart and it was not long before I became friends with Stacy. At the age of 22, I married my beautiful wife Stacy and it was not long after that we moved to Toccoa, Ga. I know there is a lot of detail here, but I feel this story has to be put down. This was the beginning of God speaking to me. There is so much more to come…