Derek J. Brown, “Personal Organization for the Sake of Fruitful Ministry,” The Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry 4.2 (2014)

When I ponder the importance of disciplined, orderly study, I am reminded of John “Rabbi” Duncan, a man who, though godly, never reached his potential as a theologian due to his inability to organize his pursuit of knowledge. In the introduction to Duncan’s brief biography, we learn that despite his great teaching ability, his failure to impose structure and exercise intentionality in his studies significantly limited his contribution to the Christian world.

These [teaching] endowments, however, were counteracted by certain weaknesses which hindered his usefulness. There was a lack of any plan in his acquisition of knowledge. He had a fatal tendency to miscellaneous. He was often carried away intellectually with some engrossing mental problem or absorbed spiritually with some enquiry into the state of his soul. Furthermore, he was utterly unmethodical in everything but the arrangement of his thoughts. The greatest defect of his character, however, was, as Dr. Moody Stuart points out, weakness of purpose. ‘You could not name any living man whom you could so easily turn aside in judgment from what he had approved, or in execution from what he had intended.’ This irregularity in work was fatal to his potential power as a professor and scholar. In this realm he was rather a great possibility than a great realization. (“Just a Talker”: Sayings of John (“Rabbi”) Duncan, xxix.)