DEE DUKE: Goal Oriented


What can a person accomplish if they are really determined? What obstacles can they overcome? What goals can they realize? What personal and human limits can they break through? What heights can they reach?

Oregon pastor Dee Duke is determined to find out. He has a profoundly important reason that motivates him to do so. 

Duke (center) with his sons Seth (left) and Sam (right) after completing an Olympic length triathlon. (Photo courtesy Dee Duke)

At 73 years old, with Parkinson’s Disease, he still puts the vast majority of people of any age to shame with his drive, energy, and most importantly, his productivity for the things that matter in life. 

Dee Duke is the senior pastor of Jefferson Baptist Church in Jefferson, Oregon. While Duke has spent most of his life in pastoral ministry, his life philosophy and practices serve as an example for anyone in any walk of life. 

Lessons from the dairy farm

Duke is a pastor, athlete, and outdoorsman though he looks like a dairy farmer, which is appropriate because he grew up on a dairy farm and still has a fondness for dairy farming at heart. 

Duke says, “I believe, without a doubt that farmers make the best theologians. The reason is because farmers have this constant illustration of our relationship with God. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul says, ‘I planted, Apollos watered, and God caused the growth.’ Any farmer knows that. They don’t have to be told that. They don’t have to go to church to be taught that. They know what their responsibility is, and they know what God’s is. They know that God isn’t going to plant the seed, and God isn’t going to water the seed, and God isn’t going to hoe the weeds. That’s their responsibility. If they do what their responsibility is, then God causes the growth. So, there’s very much a partnership involved in the sense of what I do and what God does. And it’s interesting, my part is first, and then God does His part. However, I came to the conclusion that we like to do God’s part, and ignore ours.”

Duke also said, “Farmers make the best pastors because they know that to reap you have to sow. Farmers also know that you have to milk the cows every day, every day, every day, regardless of whether you feel like it or whether it’s a holiday. The cows have to be milked. In the same way, in the spiritual life, you have to practice it every day, every day, every day.”

50TH: Dee and his wife Patty have now been married 52 years and have eight children and 27 grandchildren. (Photo courtesy Dee Duke) 

Duke has been married to his wife, Patty, for 52 years. He has eight children and has accumulated six sons-in-law, two daughters-in-law, 27 grandchildren, and pastored one church.

4000 miles on a bicycle

In May, Dee Duke will embark on a 4,000 mile bicycle trip across the United States. It will be the tenth such trip in the last eleven years. He will ride with four companions and they will be followed by a support vehicle, as they have been in eight of the ten previous treks, but they will spend most nights tent camping in campgrounds. The entire trip will last two months. As with previous rides, this year Duke has made detailed daily plans for the trip, including mapping out the entire route, how many miles a day they will bicycle, where they will stay each night, the meals, and when and where the rest days will be. He has even determined how many sermons and teachings he will prepare on his iPad during the evenings at the various camps. 

Pastor for 46 years

Duke has been the senior pastor at Jefferson Baptist Church in Jefferson, Oregon for 46 years. Jefferson is located about 15 miles south of Salem, just off I-5. When he first became the pastor of the church in 1976, it had about 25 attenders. Today, nearly 1,500 people attend the church. To put that in perspective, the local community of Jefferson has about 3,200 people, making the congregation of Jefferson Baptist Church nearly 50% as large as the entire community, although not all attenders come from Jefferson itself. As anyone in ministry or specializing in church growth can tell you, that is a stunning statistic. 

During Duke’s tenure, the church has been able to purchase land, build a modern sanctuary and, over the course of time, build many large modern support buildings for classrooms and large meetings, including a gymnasium. The land purchase and all the construction on the campus has been on a cash basis, using volunteer labor from congregation members. 

In the last six years, long-time associate pastor Mike Dedera has taken over the main weekend teaching duties, while Duke remains the Senior Pastor. Duke still teaches from the pulpit on Wednesday nights and occasionally on weekends. This arrangement with Dedera has freed him up to do more of the things he loves; personal discipleship with his Men’s Accountability Groups — he has five each week and seven total weekly accountability groups— as well as his Sunday morning men’s and women’s leadership training classes. Even without regularly preaching on Sunday morning, his work is still more than full time. 

About his work ethic, he says, “I am just thankful to be in the game, rather than being stuck on the sidelines.” 

PREACHING AND LEADING: Duke has been the pastor of Jefferson Baptist Church in Jefferson, Oregon since 1976. (Photo courtesy Dee Duke)

Duke also serves in a mentoring role for a pastor’s accountability group. They email their accountability commitments to one another each week and meet in person about three times a year. He also arranges and teaches regular Marriage Seminars for the church. 

Duke is an avid outdoorsman. He loves fishing and goes on regular fishing trips on Oregon rivers, on the coast, and a yearly trip to Alaska. He also hunts, including a Montana cougar hunt in 2016.

“I see my recreation as a key part of my ministry, because that’s what fills me up. I can become obsessed with just pastoring and neglect things that keep me up and emotionally energized. So, by setting goals, it’s like a budget with your money. You make a decision on paper how are you going to spend your money before you spend it. So, you get away from impulsiveness. With goal setting, I first spend my time on paper so that I maintain balance in how I live my life,” Duke said. 

Not taking Parkinson’s in a recliner

One of the key tools Duke uses to battle his Parkinson’s Disease is to ride his recumbent bike for an hour and a half each day. He wears a heart-rate monitor that reminds him to keep his heart-rate up as he rides. While riding his bike, he reads his Bible and other books on his iPad. He also watches “how to” videos on YouTube related to his current yearly project. He prays for his congregation members. (He has a personal commitment to pray for each congregation member by name each week.) Off the bike, he also does weight training three times a week, using five separate resistance exercises, to help maintain muscle mass and combat the normal muscle and joint stiffening effects of Parkinson’s. In his last visit to OHSU to have his Parkinson’s evaluated, the doctors told him that it seemed like his disease had actually regressed and that he had improved in many areas.  

Duke also publishes a compelling daily blog at, where he shares about his days, his personal philosophy, commentary on the Bible, his goals, personal events, and weaves in thoughts on current events. The subtitle for his blog is, “Bicycling, Pastoring, Leading.” Excerpts from his daily blog have served as the monthly faith column for Hoodview News for the last three years. 

He also memorizes Bible verses, passages, and recently entire books of the Bible. He has consistently been in the top 200 memorizers in the popular Bible Memory app which has over 10,000 users. Staying in the top 200 is one of his yearly goals. He also reads 14 chapters of the Bible and 50 pages in a good book each day, as well as spending 30-45 minutes per day in Bible memorization.  

Goal focused

Every year, Duke lays out a list of goals he wants to achieve in the coming year. He works on his goals over the course of several months prior to them becoming “active.” Duke makes the same number of goals as he is years old. This year, being 73 years old, he has 73 goals. His goals include everything from recreation he wants to do, like fishing, camping, and bike riding, to spending time with his wife of 52 years, Patty, to working on a new project and learning a new skill each year. He includes goals for being a husband, father, grandfather, and pastor.

One of the goals he has is to build a new skill each year and he usually decides on a new big project he wants to complete annually. 

RESTORATION: As one of his yearly projects, Duke completed a full restoration of a 1949 Ford pickup. (Photo courtesy Dee Duke)

Over the years, Duke has built a working, self-sustaining Aquaponics systems complete with Tilapia fish and an indoor vegetable garden. He has also restored a 1949 Ford pickup, built three different boats, a “pram,” a 24-foot Dory boat, and a drift boat, all from scratch, a boat trailer, a three-wheeled car, and is currently completely restoring a 1969 Mustang coupe with his grandson. In the past he has made annual climbs of Mt. Adams in Washington, ran 10 marathons and 25 half-marathons, and gone skydiving, all things that challenge him physically and mentally and bring freshness and excitement into his life. 

“I want to be a lifelong learner, and never plateau in my character growth,” he says. 

God is a goal-setter

Duke says he gets his goal-setting philosophy from both his dad and God.

“I love goals and the concept of goal setting. God is a goal setter. Everything He does He decides ahead of time, He plans every detail of the future. When you read prophecy in the Bible you are reading God’s goals. We function most effectively and efficiently when we function like God, because He created us like Himself,” said Duke. 

Duke’s father also played a vital role in his becoming goal focused. Duke grew up on a farm and helped his Dad with the chores every day. He relates how one day, while he was helping his dad lay irrigation pipe, his dad pointed over to an irrigation pump. “He said, ‘That’s a 40 horsepower pump.’ And I said, ‘I know. I was with you when we bought it.’ He said, ‘What will happen if we run it at 50 horsepower.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘We’ll burn it out.’ He points at me and he says, “You’re a 30 horsepower motor. You know what will happen if I run you at 40 horsepower?’ I said, ‘You’ll burn me out.’ He says, ‘Nope, you’ll become a 40 horsepower motor.’ And so that was just an {example of an] ongoing thing that happened [with my dad] half a dozen times a day,” said Duke. 

For Duke, building personal toughness — which he defines as persistence, determination, not giving into discouragement, and self-discipline — and developing an excellent personal character are the paramount purposes of life. 

Struggles and challenges

However, Duke has also faced his struggles and challenges. The early years of pastoring were difficult because he had a hard time relating to people and it caused problems in his ministry. 

“When I started pastoring I didn’t like people. That’s why I didn’t want to be a pastor. I like cows. So, I was very relationally challenged. And it created a lot of problems for me in ministry. But I just said, ‘That’s the way I am.’ Years later, I decided that I could probably learn how to get along with people better than I was doing. If I made an effort at it. And I did. I actually learned some things I should have started sooner.”

So, at age 40, Duke began to search out books and seminars that would help him relate better to people. 

Getting mentors

“I started getting mentored by a couple of pastors. I read a number of books. And probably the key individual that I was getting mentored by that helped me the most was Joe Aldridge who was then president of Multnomah School of the Bible [in Portland]. And he had a couple of little mottos, kind of like my dad. He said, ‘People won’t learn from you unless they think you like them. And if you’re not lovable, then no matter how much you study, you’re not going to affect their lives.’ He would say, ‘So when you decided to marry your wife, did you court her? I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘Well, you have to do that with everybody in your church. You’re always courting. And you’re earning the right to preach and teach, by the way you treat them.’ I just got a lot of that kind of information from him that motivated me,” says Duke.

He read books such as, “Relational Intelligence” by Dharius Daniels and the classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie. Duke credits seminars and books on building better relationships as helping him to grow in character, change the way he related to people, and helped Jefferson Baptist continue to grow. Today, he continues to seek out personal and character growth resources, both to build new skills and reaffirm ones he learned before. 

2022 Goals

Like many, Duke finds physical fitness and weight control to be one of his challenges. 

“When I turned 50 years old I was fat, out of shape, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar, border line diabetic. I decided to do something about it so I started running. I ran one lap in our gym, 1/20 of a mile, and I thought I was going to have a heart attack. The next night I ran two laps, each night adding one lap. I got to a mile, then 2, then 5, then I ran a 10k, then a half marathon, then a full marathon,” he said. He ended up running 10 marathons in 10 years. 

However, Duke also has a weakness. “I love ice cream. Being an ex-dairy farmer, it’s my duty to eat a bowl of ice cream every night,” says Duke. However, his love of ice cream contributes to another challenge — weight gain. “There isn’t much that makes me feel like a loser as much as not being able to control my weight,” he says.

However, one of his goals for 2022 is to conquer the weight loss challenge. 

“My major BHAG [Big Hairy Audacious Goal] this year is to lose weight. Right now I weigh more than I have for about 10 years, and I am determined to succeed in accomplishing my goal. My goal is to lose 40 pounds and get down to 188 pounds, which is what I weighed the day before we got married, 52 years ago,” he says.

Life impacts others

Mike Wilde is a long-time pastor in Vancouver, Washington. He became a member of one of Duke’s pastoral support groups in 2010. 

Wilde says, “My life, my family and my church has benefited as a result of applying Dee’s teaching and influence in my life… He is both a friend and  a mentor who gives wisdom as well as continually seeks wisdom.  He is a lifelong reader and learner who is always available to offer what he has been learning. I am a better pastor, husband and man because of the influence that Dee has had in my life.” 

Mike Dedera became the main teaching pastor at Jefferson Baptist six years ago. He said, “When I came in to ministry, I had little experience and next to zero experience on how to preach. Pastor Dee’s wisdom, counsel, and commitment to me carried me through the tough times and allowed me to excel during the growing times. I have been truly grateful, not for only his instructions, but also for the encouragement that has carried me through the years.”

Jean Krause, long-time Jefferson Baptist Church secretary said, “Dee… has taught and shared his Leadership Principles to literally hundreds of men and women and emphasized the importance of prayer in every aspect of our lives. Dee has built a strong spiritual foundation for Jefferson Baptist that will continue to grow and ‘bear fruit’ for many years to come.”

Main motivation

So, at age 73, with Parkinson’s Disease, what is the motivation that keeps Duke working to accomplish more and affecting more people, rather than doing what so many do, spending the rest of his days in a recliner watching TV or just fishing, loafing, and complaining about the government? 

Duke says, “One of the things I teach a lot in our church I find most believers are ignorant on. The average believer thinks that when they step into heaven, that God’s gonna fix them in the sense of character. What I teach is that character is not created. Not even Jesus had character created in him. [The Bible] says that God the Father perfected the author of our salvation, Jesus, through suffering. And so that statement, ‘He perfected the author of their salvation,’ means He produced character and He grew Him up. So we’re not going to get zapped, our character all fixed, when we step into heaven. What we have and who we are when we step into heaven, is who we are there. And so the more like Him we are in character, the more we will enjoy Him for eternity. And the more He will enjoy us. A lot of believers are going to step into glory, and they’re going to be babies in the sense of character. It will impact their joy level, it will impact their service in eternity, and it will impact their relationship with Christ.”

Getting prepared for eternity, both in character and rewards, is what keeps Duke motivated to grow more and do more in the here and now. 

Life Sayings

Duke has many sayings that have helped him live life successfully. One is, “You don’t have to act the way you feel.”

Another is, “One of the basic principles of life is that the more important something is to our life, the harder it is to do consistently. Jesus stated the principle numerous times, and none clearer than when He said, ‘choose the narrow, hard way instead of the broad, easy way.’ Few choose the hard way, but it is the way to life.”  HVN

Ads that appeared with this story. Click to enlarge.