Dick Lucas on the History and Development of Proclamation Trust (Part 3 of 5)

What follows is Part Three of the transcript of our interview with Dick Lucas. Listen to the audio below (starting at 32:05) or download the mp3.

TK: At some point along the way you began to think beyond the walls of the church. You saw the need for the word of God to be at the center of the life of the church. Can you tell us a little about the development of Proclamation Trust?

The Proclamation Trust Logo

DL: Yes. The trouble is that I tend to get too much credit. So many other people were involved. Jonathan Fletcher, I always say, is one of the founders of P.T. Jonathan was on our staff for three or four years. He went to Wimbledon as the pastor there. He has a terrific number of friends. He’s one of these people who knows so many other people and is a great encourager. He ran a conference for two nights at Fairmont. We had a conference center by then due to the generosity of one of our businessmen. Jonathan ran a conference for two or three nights for about twenty men who were in charge of churches and invited me to come to lead it. This is how P.T. started. God does things.

“We all discovered that we didn’t know how to handle the Bible.”

I think it’s very important to remember we didn’t start with a plan. We didn’t sit around and have a committee. This started just naturally. We all sat around. We were all friends. We all knew each other really. Stories about it now get greatly exaggerated. The story today is that the Bill would give is five-minute exposition and that I would then tear it to pieces. Then Jack would give his five minutes and then I would say, “Jack that’s not in the Bible.” It wasn’t quite like that. Basically, we all discovered it, wasn’t just me. We all discovered that we didn’t know how to handle the Bible. We’d all been through theological college. We’d all got degrees. For men, they were very good brains. People today who are very important church leadership positions. I think it was astonishing. Those of us that were there will never forget it. Again, I think it was of God. We all realized that we were preaching to each other, but we didn’t know how to do it. What we were saying from the Bible was not what the Bible was saying. I just happened to be the chairman. I suppose I had been giving some thought to this. I had been learning from people like Stott. We immediately said we must meet again next year. Every two years that group continues to meet to this day. Even dragging me down at my age occasionally to give a talk. They are all grey headed now and most of them retired. But they still meet because of the joy of being together and what it has meant to them in the course of their ministry.

It was the Lord who did that. I feel that people think I had some wonderful idea. Actually, it wasn’t that. The wonderful idea was realizing that we didn’t know how to it. And so, we had to teach ourselves. There was nobody to tell us.

At my theological college, I preached twice. We went out to villages in Cambridge. One village had a wonderful name of Six Mile Bottom. There were dear elderly people and we gave a talk. Then on Monday morning with the Vice Principal, we would discuss the talk for half an hour and then go to coffee. Well, what a good is that? It was just not taken seriously. (I want to be careful, there may have been some that were.)

Anyhow, there we were sitting around this conference center and we knew that we didn’t know how to do it. So, we met a year later and the thing grew. We realized we couldn’t just do this for ourselves we needed to tell other people. I had my 25th anniversary at St. Helen’s. I said to the elders of the church that I didn’t want a silver teapot or anything like that. I would like some money so that we could set up something for P.T. We knew we had to set up some conferences and that we would need a bit of cash to do that. Two very generous men gave us $25,000 each—which was a lot of money in those days. It was very generous. That was the capital on which we hired a secretary and got a room. In the end, we started to run these little conferences at our own conference center. Then we started the Cornhill Training Course by asking David Jackman to come. He was with us for 14 years and that’s how Cornhill training course started. It’s big now, but it was quite tiny then. It all really came through the generosity of two men who saw the need. One is in heaven and one is still alive, I’m glad to say, today.

[Watch: Interview with David Jackman on Expository Preaching, Gospel Ministry, and Scripture’s Authorial Intent]

TK: I resonate with your statements about not knowing how to preach. Probably 25 years ago, some colleagues and I experienced you coming over to College Church in Wheaton. We began to take part in those conferences as well. It provided something very significant.

DL: Yes, people’s eyes open to realize this is a living Word, that it makes sense, that you have got to sit under it, not over it. By in large people sit over it don’t they, or did in those days. It was a very natural thing. It was nobody’s genius; there was no genius in it. Of course, various people brought their gifts into it. Jonathan is a very fine expositor. Other people came who knew how to do it and teach others. So, those conferences still go on. My 25th anniversary must have been 1986—that must have been roughly when we started.

Part Four discusses expository preaching and its impact.

Dick Lucas: Beginnings in Ministry & Growth as a Preacher (Part 2 of 5)

What follows is Part Two of the transcript of our interview with Dick Lucas. Listen to the audio below (starting at 13:30) or download the mp3.

TK: As you began in ministry, what was your view of ministry? What were you trying to do as you led?

DL: I must have been pompous because I don’t think I had any idea. I had a very dear rector. (That is the title of the senior pastor here.) He was over 70 and near retirement. He wasn’t a man you think to train you. He was an evangelist. He had been a great evangelist in his youth and his ministry was largely evangelistic. In the early 50s, churches were comparatively full in towns where I went.

I realized my job was to help people, and I realized they really didn’t know anything. I gathered them. I learned how to do a lot at that point, gathering all these young people. I had about three and a half years there. I soon realized that people need training. So we stopped all the nonsense and fooling around. Youth fellowships in the town where I went were always fooling around with girls and playing games and so on. So, I began a completely fresh one. We went straight to work on the Bible every Friday night. We had games on Saturday if they wanted it. We didn’t want to assume that they wanted no recreation. We had a big grammar school nearby and we had 60 or 70 young men and girls. What I learned from that is if you treat them seriously and give them proper food – well you know this from all the work your doing – a large number of those boys went into Christian ministry of various kinds. In fact, I’m getting so long in the tooth that the boys I was training then are retired now.

TK: Did you then make your way to Mt. St. Helen’s?

DL: No, then I went to a society to talk to young men about the call to ministry, which I did for two or three years. I don’t think that probably adds very much to my story. It was a worthwhile time. I think it did for me, selfishly, is that I traveled the country. That was very useful in getting to know people, getting to know the situation. I gained a great deal from that. It was a very useful time for me.

St. Helen's Bishopsgate Church

St. Helen’s Bishopsgate Church, where Dick Lucas served as Rector from 1961 to 1998.

Then in 1961 St. Helen’s came up. In those days nobody seemed to want to be in a city church. The churches were empty. The Bishop of London used them as a dumping place for those incorrigible tragedies he didn’t know what else to do with. So, we were a rum bunch. A senior businessman saw the opportunity and he said to me (he’s the kind of man to tell you what to do), “Dick you’ve got to become the rector there.” I smiled and put in my application. I can remember it now, putting it in the letterbox, thinking that’s the end of the matter. Actually, only four people applied. I was appointed. Partly, I think because I was young and partly because the bishop wanted his candidate and the trustees (who had to appoint) were determined not to have the man that the bishop wanted. So, a good bit of human nature came into my appointment. They were glad to have a younger man. I inherited nothing but a small crowd.

TK: So, it was a rather small beginning.

DL: That’s one way of putting it, There was really nothing there at all.

TK: Over the years God gave you a ministry of the Word.

DL: […] Gradually. We didn’t start with a big Sunday morning. We didn’t think that was way ahead because parking was so difficult. It really came with a Tuesday service, because a group of businessmen who were praying and reading the Bible wanted a gospel service. I would never have been able to succeed without these men. They read the Bible once a week… They just said to me, “Will you please start a lunch hour service?” So, we did. They were the people responsible for it’s success. They worked and prayed like crazy. When people came through the door, into that funny old building, in one corner there would be Bill Somebody from the rubber market, another somebody from the insurance market. All these old markets of the old city are open markets, or at least they were then. So a youngster coming to do insurance would know the big names. If you were in the rubber market or the sugar market, you would know them. They came in saw Mr. So-and-So in the corner, one of the stewards, and they thought, “If he comes there must be something here worthwhile.”

Those early days were extraordinary. This was not actually our doing at all. Those early days the men came in like a river. They just poured in at five minutes to one o’clock in a great stream. I don’t think any human explanation can be given for that except that there were many people praying and it was God’s time. William, my brilliant successor, has built on that many other things that we didn’t do in those days. So, the work is much bigger now than it was then.

TK: St. Helen’s is right in the middle of the business district. What did you see happening in those Tuesday meetings that was so significant for the ministry of the church?

DL: It was a male world in those days. Strange isn’t it how many things have changed. There are many able women in the city today. But in those days it was a male world in grey suits, umbrellas and, believe it or not, the old bowler hat—which is now completely extinct. Although, I did see one the other day and I nearly ran over to the man and said: “May I please have your hat because they’d like it at the museum.” So, it was an extraordinary sight.

You see a youngster coming up to the city, age 18 or 19, he’s unlikely to be in a church again except for his marriage and the baptism of his children. So, actually, it’s the last chance for many young men, from my point of view. They won’t go to their local church, but in those days they came out in their lunch hour. Today, they build new buildings. The organizers try to keep everybody in the building so no time is wasted. So a young man coming alone sees this astonishing queue of men coming into a church in the middle of the day and says, “What on earth is going on?” I suppose it was a very unusual sight. Many must have came in just out of curiosity.

An Indian Christian named V.J. worked his way up and was a marine engineer who had done very well. He saw all these people coming in, so he came in (he’s was a Hindu), and found himself in the middle of a row and he couldn’t get out. So he had to stay. The Lord wonderfully spoke to him. He has been a blessing to thousands of people.

TK: To those who don’t know, what would happen on a Tuesday?

DL: It was only half an hour. I think I had at least the sense to be short. The thing lasted exactly half an hour, just 12:55 to 1:25. So, I would get into the pulpit at 1 pm, a hymn would be announced, after the hymn I would say a prayer, I would then read and immediately preach and finish exactly on 25 past. So, I learned to preach for 21 minutes. And that was appreciated. People knew how long they were kept. I just think it was the numbers at the time. People hadn’t heard this. They hadn’t heard the good news.

We started refreshments. I had learned that if you have refreshments first, people slip away when they’ve had the refreshment and don’t stay for the talk. (A lot of Christian evangelism happened that way in those days.) So, we had the talk first and then we had excellent refreshments afterward. You know, God moves in strange ways, one of the exclusive Brethren churches had broken up and some of their people had come to us including a wonderful lady who, to make ends meet, had gone into catering. She did our Tuesday lunch every Tuesday for 30 years I think. It was a tremendous thing for her as for us. Those sort of people found a ministry.

TK: In the talk itself, what was your goal or objective?

DL: I would take a theme for the month. People move in the city and we forget how mobile people are. It was no good going through Jeremiah for forty Sundays or forty Tuesdays. You do need a bit of common sense. So, I would do four or five Tuesdays on one passage. I think we have too much in our sermons today. I haven’t heard myself. I’ve never listened to those old talks. But I don’t think there’s too much material in them.

The aim was to make a certain point and to make it well. I might take one chapter, John 1 or Romans 5. That would be quite tough going to take Romans 4 & 5 in four Tuesdays. I tried to keep it concise. It was really hearing the whole counsel of God. Hearing what John 3:16 really means in terms of the New Testament. That was new to a lot of these men.

TK: Many that were coming to the luncheon, they weren’t believers.

DL: Well, there were a lot of Christians that came of course, but if you got four hundred plus every Tuesday there were plenty of non-Christians there. The Christians brought their friends. So, Christians were there, lots of non-Christians were there and in between. All sorts. William is a very good speaker on Tuesdays today, but he enlarged the concept. He has a Thursday on which he has questions back, which rather like the hall of Tyrannus, of Paul.

TK: This is one thing that shaped the church in a significant way?

DL: Yes, this is how we started. A strange way to start isn’t it? But I didn’t have parochial obligations; that was a great blessing. I was single. I don’t know how I would have coped with a parish, enormous amount of visiting to do and so on. That wouldn’t have been my strength. I’d done a certain amount of that as an assistant.

We then started a student service, I suppose it was about five or six years after I came, because there was a great service at All Souls. John Stott was at the height of his powers in the 50’s. 900 people at All Souls. We started in the late 60’s. There’s a long way between the west end and the east end. Although of course, it’s very business orientated, the big teaching hospitals all around the east end of London are enormous campuses today. Somebody with wisdom might have moved them out of central London, or some of them. But they couldn’t have moved really, and today they’re enormous. We built up our Sunday night on medical students, nurses, and others. It’s astonishing how students find somewhere to live even in built-up areas. We had a good crowd coming on a Sunday night very quickly.

TK: The main thing you were doing was simply opening the Word of God.

DL: Yes, absolutely. Because there were not parochial activities, none of the things you would run at an ordinary church, we didn’t have to bother with them. We didn’t even have a proper Sunday School until Robert Howes (happy memory!) came, somewhere in the 70’s or early 80’s. He had three boys and he was disgusted at the smallness of our Sunday School. So, Robert and other people, one particular lady who was an assistant tutor at the hospital and her husband [worked on Sunday School]. We now have probably one of the best Sunday Schools within any reach of St. Helen’s. It’s a valuable thing to people on the fringes who bring their children in. It became a very notable thing for people and so they made the effort to find places to park, which is still difficult. So that was a great thing. People bring in different gifts don’t they. I could never have done that. I never went to the Sunday School except for the nativity play, which I used to enjoy very much.

TK: The word of God was instrumental.

DL: That was the only attraction. I think people found it astonishing their friends wanted to go for that, until they found out that it is wonderfully rich and attractive.

We did the same with the students, yes. They’ve got plenty of activities. You don’t need to entertain the students. The world entertains them and they entertain themselves far better than we can entertain them. We had gifted young men and girls who knew how to get alongside them in a way I didn’t. Richard Cunningham, do you know, doing sort of wonderful work today. Well, I remember Richard, I think he was doing physical training at Gordon Smith College. People who are training, for what they call exercise art, they aren’t notably scholars. Richard of course, has a very fine mind. Richard, I always remember him coming on Sunday night and beginning to bring the young men from the college who were not there on scholarship grounds and probably found listening boring. It was priceless; Richard would bring a notebook and start take notes on my sermon. So the next week you would see the boy who came with him bring his own notebook and then the next boy would bring a notebook. These things catch don’t they? They suddenly realized this is important stuff and not only listened to it but took notes to think about. They used to make me smile when I looked down from the pulpit to see these guys that had no idea that you came to church to think. It’s a happy memory.

In Part Three, Dick shares about the history and development of Proclamation Trust.

Dick Lucas’ early years and what C.S. Lewis was like as a professor (Part 1 of 5)

What follows is Part One of the transcript of our interview with Dick Lucas. Listen to the audio below or download the mp3.

Todd Kelly: I’m here with Dick Lucas who was the Rector for many years at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate in London. He also served as the Director of Proclamation Trust. Dick, tell us a little about your story and about your early years.

Dick Lucas: I first heard the gospel at holiday camp. I think that’s true of many people in my generation and still true. We were a church-going family. My father was a man of enormous integrity and we went down the hill to the church every Sunday. Looking back, I realize there was nothing on offer there at all.

A local fellow who was a medical student in the town asked me to these camps, and like many others, I heard the gospel for the first time. It was wartime actually and the government insisted that the school kids did something for the war effort. So, these Christians running the camps wisely put on farming and such. The place was packed out as people had to go somewhere on the holidays. I can’t remember what we did. I think we picked up turnips; it can’t have helped the war very much. But all day we went on to the farm. I remember cutting down a sapling on the head of the owner of the estate. I was lucky not to be sent home I think. But it was all great fun and I got to hear the gospel and I responded to it. I can’t say that I did very well after that. I went to school and, of course, backslid, and then I went into the Navy at the end of the war. It was in the Navy, where I came back and had to make my own route Christian-wise.

TK: What were some of the influences that came into your life and grew you as a Christian?

A young John Stott

DL: I think the talks at that particular camp were probably the finest talks to young people that I have ever heard then or since. The young John Stott was a student at the time, and I won’t give you the names of others, but the talks were of an outstanding quality. I don’t think I realized that at the time. Then afterward in my Naval service, I didn’t hear any talks.

When I came out of the Navy I knew where I stood. I did odd jobs and earned some money and then went on to university. I was lucky enough to get a place at Cambridge. I don’t think I could now; the standards are so incredibly high. The Cambridge Christian Union was then an astonishing society. The biggest in University, 400 I think was the number. There were a lot of very material people in the Christian Union. Despite that, the Christian Union was very effective and I grew. I think there was only one member of the senior faculty at the University that stood with the Christian Union. He was a lovely man, slightly eccentric, the under-librarian at the university library. Ever since then, at Cambridge the Christian Union doesn’t get support from the senior faculty. But it’s been the most effective society at the university for many years.

TK: You had some interesting professors while you were at university. One in particular that stood out, C. S. Lewis?

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

DL: That was at Oxford. When I had to leave school. When you were 18 you got called up and you had to leave school immediately. This is toward the end of the war that I was called up. And it just happened that I had C. S. Lewis as my tutor for six months, which was an extraordinary privilege. I tremble as I look back. Of course, I was completely ignorant of English literature and he must have regarded this as sort of the war work, I think. I really am rather ashamed when I think of what he had to put up with. So, there I was in my Naval uniform going in to read my essay to this man and had no idea what a great man he was. And of course, even the world didn’t then know what a great man he was in 1943.

TK: Was there a way in which his tutelage shaped you?

DL: I don’t mean this in a wrong way; he wasn’t friendly. He once said to a student, “I’m not your schoolmaster.” He regarded a student as being an adult and therefore looking after one’s self. So, he wasn’t in that way a warm cuddly person. I happened to be on the same staircase so I did notice the way he worked fairly all day. I used to look through the door and see he would write without correcting anything — he had an extraordinary mind. He had one of the great minds of his generation. He wasn’t famous then. He was giving talks to the Air Force people. Many of the flatlands out there (near Cambridge) were made into Abbeys; the Americans were there in very large numbers. The bombers were there. As his war work, he was asked to give talks and that’s how he became known. The BBC heard about these talks and invited him to broadcast them. It really all came out of the fact that he had to give talks to the airmen. I think he himself learned then how to put things in a simpler way. These talks that ultimately became Mere Christianity. The BBC was astounded by the response to these talks. As you know, Mere Christianity has never been out of print since.

He then became very unpopular with the senior faculty at Magdalen College. Magdalen was a godless college and a very famous college, very atheistical. People like Gilbert Ryle the philosopher. So [Lewis] got a rough ride there. He never made professor at Oxford. So, without doubt Lord David Cecil once said he was the great man at Oxford yet he never actually got professorship. Which I think tells it’s own story. They didn’t like the fact that he wrote popular Christian stuff, but his lectures were crowded. They were extraordinary. I went to some of them. He would come into the lecture room talking and he would go on talking brilliantly from the lectern and then walk out talking. Now whether this was a ploy so people didn’t catch him at the end and make conversation, I don’t know. He wasn’t in that sense chummy. I don’t think you would say that. He had his own circle of friends, of course, which everybody knows about by the stories of Inklings and how they used to meet at the pub once a week. Then he was rescued by Cambridge asking him to be the professor there of languages and so on, where he had a very successful eight or nine years, I think it was. Smoked like a chimney. Died really very young in today’s terms at 63—smoking can’t have helped him. A remarkable man, unique really. Wish we had a man today who could write like that, we badly need it.

TK: Dick, what were some of the influences that led you to the ministry?

DL: I wanted to be a missionary before I was nine. I was really a wicked little boy and I remember telling a friend at prep school that I was going to be a missionary to Japan. Thank God He altered my plan! Poor Japan, it they’d had me as a missionary!

I think going to these camps and seeing these men. The thing that impressed me the most is the way these young men had given up their time to look after us brats. I’d never met that before, I’d never met that Christian kind of attitude of solace. I don’t think we realize what an impression that makes to people who have never seen it before. Well, I wouldn’t have been able to express that at the time, but I was enormously impressed by it. I wanted to be like them.

So, I think I had ideas of going into ordained ministry very early on. I told my father and he was entirely supportive. I think the rest of my family thought it was rather odd, but I had no opposition at all. So, I went on to university and to theological college afterward.

TK: As you transitioned from the training to ministry itself, describe some of those early days. What were you setting out to do?

DL: I think it would be fair to say (I don’t mean this unkindly), that I learned very little at my theology college. It was liberal evangelical and they had no idea how to train us. They still don’t in many ways, some of those colleges.

I learned really as a leader of course to these camps. I was there for four years. That was an enormous privilege because we were properly trained. If you were given a talk for an evening, if you couldn’t keep boys awake in the evening, then you wouldn’t be given another talk to give. In the morning you would be torn to pieces (in a friendly way). I never had training like that at the Church of England. The Church of England had no idea really how to train its leaders. I’m not sure any denomination does in this country. But these interdenominational movements, of course, do train. You ought to know that in America because what is extraordinary about your lay movements is that many people don’t realize they are lay movements (Campus Crusade, Navigators, and the like) that is a reaction to clericalism. The fact is that they have trained their men better than many of the churches trained their men. We’ve learned a lot from them. And I learned all I knew. When I went to be an assistant in 1951, all I had really learned was from giving endless talks at camp and elsewhere. I had already begun to speak in lots of places. You learn by doing it, don’t you?

TK: Was there someone there that was interacting with you about those talks?

DL: The leader of the camp. You have to say he was a remarkable man. He wasn’t a man you would call a superman in any way. He had great spiritual experience and power—he was a great man of prayer. The leaders he had were all chosen leaders. It was from those camps that John Stott came. And he chose men and trained them. I don’t know where we would be without that kind of training. Our theological colleges are necessary because we need men who know theology, but it’s very hard to learn to ride a bicycle in a room. You don’t learn to be a preacher at a theological college. That’s why the Proclamation Trust started. I think it must have been. You try and look back and say, “Why on earth did we begin?” I think we realized that men coming out of theological college might not be able to preach even though they were very good theologically. It’s just practical.

Part Two traces Dick’s early ministry and preaching at the businessmen’s lunch.


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