— Film Transcription Below —
Dick Lucas: I'm an old boy. I’m liable to say that the old is better.
I think we didn't really know what we were doing.
In fact the situation was dire, because on the whole men don't go to church in this country
God had opened one of the few churches right at the heart of the financial quarter and nobody would want to go to one of those churches because there was no one there.
The 1950s were an astonishingly important decade.
I took Bible studies for some of these businessmen.
These men were determined to have a gospel meeting once a week.
And so when St. Helens came up as a vacancy, Tony, who was a member of the Merchant Tailors Company, persuaded them to interview me.
In my second interview things weren't going so well. They were out of their depth. They didn't know what to say.
An old boy sitting near the window and we've never discovered who it was said, “May I ask Mr. Lucas some questions?”
The chairman desperate for help said, “Oh please do.”
And this old boy said, “Mr. Lucas I gather you've been speaking at some services in the city at St. Mary Ep Church.”
“Yes,” I said, “I have.” I could hardly say other.
“And I gather that the church has been full.”
“Yes, sir it has.”
“And I gather that it is full after six months and if not fuller.”
To which I can only say, “Yes, sir that is true.”
And that was the end of the interview.
So they appointed me. Of course it was quite, quite an impossibility… was an extraordinary position.
By and large in our day the lunch hour was a time when everybody came out for a bit of fresh air and a walk around and to buy a sandwich. So it was a wonderful mission field.
These ten, eleven businessmen who met for prayer and study, they really got going and they combed the city for all their friends.
So all that happened was we started a Tuesday service.
Andrew Green: A colleague of mine at the office, I asked him whether we could meet on Tuesday. He said, “I can't do Tuesdays.” “Why can't you do Tuesdays?” “Cause I go to the luncher service.” I said, “Oh, can I come?” So I actually invited myself.
Dick: So we made it possible for them by giving them a lunch, which was sandwiches, but really good ones not your old rubbish that you buy at a sandwich shop.
Andrew: My first visit there I just couldn't believe my eyes. People are crammed into pews, sitting on steps, and must have been 600 or 700 people and all wanting to hear God's word. I'd never seen anything like it.
Dick:By five past one, men were coming through the door four or five abreast.
And really from the start God's hand was on it. These men had prayed for many years and at its best it was just an extraordinary scene.
Andrew: When the preacher who was Dick Lucas started speaking from the Bible I'd never seen anyone preach from the Bible even though I've been going to church for many years. And the more he spoke the more uncomfortable I became because clearly the Bible was saying that I wasn't a Christian and that I was a sinner.
His preaching it was frighteningly direct. I mean it was jugular preaching.
Well you don't expect to be mugged by an Edwardian gentleman, but that's precisely what Dick does with the gospel.
One really felt convicted. Very powerful, very powerful cause he had absolute belief in God's word.
About a year later I knelt down on my bedside and asked Jesus into my life and really everything's gone from there.
Dick: I did that every Tuesday except when I was on holiday, but on the whole that went on for thirty-seven years.
Ronald Wilcox had his office just outside the front door. He was the epitome of the city gent in the city…
All his life he had a business that hummed. But wherever there was a need for the gospel…
He did everything that he could to support me. He was what you call a Gospel Patron. And it gave him such enormous joy
Anyhow, he came into St. Helens and thoroughly enjoyed things. People warmed to him immediately because of his generosity.
He had an instinct, yes I'd forgotten this, he had an instinctive wisdom.
That's an enormous gift isn't it? Very rare.
Ronnie wanted to support me. And therefore you felt that, you were conscious of that. And you knew that you could turn to him.
He was not a good driver.
Well we'd be weaving through the traffic, you know, with no with no understanding that there was somebody else on the road and we'd move across and within two inches of a bus. And you just get a little polite ‘toot toot’ of protest and Ronald would say to me, “What are they all making such a fuss about today, Dick?” And I say, “It's the hot weather, Ronald.” But actually it was a little protest of the fact that he'd nearly gone under their bonnet. (Laugh)
Yes this is a good memory actually.
He would be horrified. I think he'd be rather hurt for me to say that, but I think now he's in heaven he wouldn't mind the truth.
Andrew: I think Dick having built a platform of Bible ministry at St. Helen’s saw the need for training across the country and beyond.
David Jackman: In the 80s there was a sort of tidal wave in evangelical churches that was sweeping the Bible out.
Where was the new generation of younger preachers going to come from?
And so a number of us were quite concerned about that. And we got together and met with Dick.
Dick: I think my generation of young men inherited from before the second world war what you would call devotional preaching, often not prepared, but very heartwarming, passion, gospel-centeredness, but not a serious handling of the Bible.
Andrew: And so he had a germ of an idea of setting up a training course to train ministers to preach effectively.
Dick: At my 25th anniversary I said to Ronald, “I don't want a silver teapot or something useless like that.”
I don't know that I said anything more than that. And he wrote a check for 25,000. And another businessman who’s now in heaven wrote a check for 25,000.
It may not seem a lot of money today, but that was the foundation of all this, the 50,000. It enabled us to rent a very small office and a secretary.
Yeah, no it was Ronald who suddenly said, “Why don't you call it the Proclamation Trust?”
And that's part of Ronnie's legacy isn't it?
I remember driving down the A3 to ask David if he would leave the church of which he was the minister and come and take the Cornhill, the first ever of the Cornhill Training Courses.
Andrew: And David did a great work in getting it off the ground and building it up.
David: The first year we have 15 students
And of course what happens is they understand how to handle the Bible. They begin to get it into their DNA and they begin to say, “This is what we need at home. So when I go back I want to start something like this.”
Andrew: And the overflow of that was seen in the revival in many churches.
Dick: He was absolutely brilliant at that.
David: Biblical truth brings people alive and they start to say, “Now I feel I, I know God, I'm encountering him.”
Andrew: And since then the work has grown dramatically upwards of fifteen hundred have gone through the course
David: They're all over the place now, you know, in different countries around the world.
Andrew: Next to Billy Graham, Dick Lucas has put more people in pulpits throughout the world through the ministry at St. Helens and the Proclamation Trust than any other.
Dick: I think I've come to realize actually late in life just how important a man of great ability is.
Well there is a connection there isn't there, which I think some people ignore. They don't realize how it all happens. You have to have a generation of people raised up to proclaim the gospel but you also have to have a generation who are prepared to support the gospel to a sacrificial extent.
Andrew: God had provided Dick with this important patron.
Dick: I think even Ronnie who is not a grasping person, I think even he could see that the latter part of his life had been a very happy one because he'd given so much and gained so much.
And he must be rejoicing in the fruit of what he did because in a sense what he has sown was something comparatively small, which has grown into something very big.
I just think I want to thank him for his partnership really.