God gave direction to Ron Duncan at age 15. It came through a youth summer camp pastor, preaching Proverbs 3.
"Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart," the first verses read. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."
Duncan said a realization was sudden, overpowering; he knew the rest of his life would be spent serving God.
"I've never wavered from that," said Duncan. Nearly 50 years later, he sat in his office at the North American headquarters of Church of God Ministries, 1201 E. Fifth St., in Anderson, reminiscing on his 11 years spreading that message as the faith movement's general director.
[Photo: Dr. Ron Duncan, general director of Church of God Ministries, addresses one of the 2013 Global Gathering sessions at Park Place Church of God. Credit: John P. Cleary/The Herald Bulletin]
He's retiring in early August, and is expected to be succeeded by current Madison Park Church of God Pastor Jim Lyon.
"When I walk out that door, I want to leave it a better place," said Duncan, a reverend, doctor of ministry, and retired colonel, as he sat surrounded by walls of photos and medals from his 25 years as a chaplain in the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve. "I like to think I've done that."
Prior to taking his current position in Anderson, Duncan spent 36 years as a pastor. His congregations spanned the Midwest and Texas, including Park Place Church of God and Garfield Park Church of God in Indiana, and others in Ohio and in Texas, where much of his family lives and where he was named Pastor of the Year in 1997.
The Anderson University graduate was named general director in 2002, heading the Ministries' roughly 2,200 U.S. and Canadian congregations. That includes the 2013 Global Gathering, which continues through Tuesday at Anderson University.
The Global Gathering "is one of the numerous things that's meant a lot to me and to the community," Duncan said, whether through its religious, social, or local economic impact. This last Global Gathering before his retirement is bittersweet.
"The gathering's part of the job," he said, "But when you love what you do, it's not really a job. I haven't worked a day in my life."
The Ministry will vote on Lyon's placement June 26. If he's confirmed, Lyon will assume the role in early August, taking over for a man who's, "calmly walked into the fire," and led the church through, Lyon said.
"(Duncan's) created a platform for the church to grow and develop," Lyon said. "I have very much respect for the man and what he's been able to do."
To smooth the transition, Duncan said that "communication will remain open," and he'll serve as Lyon's counsel as long as is needed. He's also worked to assemble a comprehensive list of dos and don'ts and other information Lyon might need.
"It's a little difficult," Duncan said. "I want my successor to be successful. (But) how do I transfer what I know?"
When he does step down, Duncan says he'll spend more time with his eight grandkids in Texas and with wife Martha.
But he isn't retiring. Not really.
Duncan said he intends to remain a fixture in the Church of God. "If they need an usher, I'll be an usher," he said. "I'd rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord, than (be) a king."
— Baylee Pulliam is a reporter with The Herald Bulletin. Reposted with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.