It is my privilege to share my personal faith statement with you.
I believe in the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit as revealed in the Bible. I have experienced the grace of God in my own life which serves to strengthen my faith in my loving God. God's word and my experience demonstrate that God is a God who seeks out people who would otherwise be lost and bound for damnation. Yes, I believe that heaven and hell are real. (For those who would question that a loving God would condemn unbelievers to hell: I also believe that God is a just God and in his justice he must punish sin.) I believe that God gave his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to redeem those who are lost. I believe that Jesus accomplished this redemption through his death for sin, resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven as a guarantee that all will one day be raised from the dead and stand in the presence of God.
Enough apologetics! Personally, God found me in one of Milwaukee's housing projects. He used Pastor Erwin Tieman who had a burden for sharing the good news with others. Through Pastor Tieman's efforts God drew my family to Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church where we experienced the gospel in word and action. This church became our church home and served as the touch stone for individual faith journeys.
My parents, Bill and Karen Lucas, were an interracial couple who brought seven children into this world of whom I am the oldest. My family seemed to be a typical family in our housing project. I didn't really know how poor we were until I was in my teens because everyone else seemed to be at the same level of poverty. However, poverty wasn't the big issue in my family. Drinking was. My dad was an alcoholic. Certainly, his alcoholism contributed to the depth of our poverty but we would have been poor had he not drank. My dad drank his way through the first decade of my life. He stopped drinking when I was twelve years old. Why he stopped drinking is not entirely clear. We only know that he entered the hospital thinking he might have had a heart attack (it wasn't) and after several days there he came out and never drank again. The turmoil the drinking caused in my family and my life caused me to look elsewhere for stability. For me that stability was found in our church and its new young pastor, Ronald Fletcher.
Pastor Fletcher demonstrated a compassion and understanding that greatly touched my life. It was his example of pastoral care that initially set my feet on the path to my chosen vocation as a pastor. After Pastor Fletcher left God sent another great pastor, Michael Rogers, who recognized and encouraged my desire to pursue church work. He was not only a pastor but a friend.
I have learned a lot about God during the years since God found me. A pivotal point in my faith journey occurred when I was in high school. During my sophomore year a classmate, John Pipkorn, challenged me when he heard me cursing like I was born to it. (My theology says I was born to it but it also says that having been baptized into Christ I have died to sin and been made alive [reborn] to righteousness.) Any way, he confronted the sin and suggested that I talked the talk of a Christian, at least sometimes, but failed to walk the walk of a Christian. What hurt was I knew he was right. I would like to say that I had a "lightning bolt" experience and became a super Christian overnight but that would be a lie. His challenge was a lightning bolt of sorts but anyone with integrity will tell you that sanctification is a process. What I mean is that God found me wandering away from him and through a friend drew me back to himself. I had wandered a little ways away over time so the journey back also took sometime. In his grace, love and mercy God did not simply give me a road map and say, "See if you can find your way back." While he did give me a map in his holy word he also surrounded me with guides who helped lead me. One of those guides was and is my high school sweet heart, Donna, to whom I have been married for 28 years.
My Father unexpectedly died on September 19, 1980 when I was nineteen years old and attending Concordia Teachers College in Seward, Nebraska. Suddenly, my mom, five younger sisters, brother and I found ourselves in a whirlwind of hurt, anger and loneliness. Can you say, "Faith crisis?" For those who have unexpectedly lost a close family member and are honest about the experience I believe they will tell you that they did a lot of questioning of the will of God, his presence, omnipotence and omniscience during their grief process. I certainly wondered how the death of my father was going to "work to the good of those who love God." Years later I accept that God has worked good out of this painful situation but I also wonder what life would have been like if my dad would have been around to see his many grandchildren, especially my three sons. Anyway, during the difficult time following my father's death God once again surrounded me with people who cared and supported a hurting and if the truth be told frightened young man. My compassion for others grew following my father's death and I am a better pastor because I have "been there and done that."
Donna's influence on my life has been immeasurable. She has stood by me during difficult times and pushed me when I have been idle. In our early years of dating her witness and confrontation of some of my behavior made the difference between my walking with Christ or chasing after the world. Of course the fact that I really liked her didn't hurt at all. We were married on June 25, 1983 after six years of dating. Donna continues to help me to grow and by the grace of God I have been blessed to encourage her growth as well.
We have three children. Terry is our oldest. He is a special person whom God placed in our lives while I was on vicarage during my third year of seminary training. He attended the church at which I was doing my vicarage. We fell in love with him and after an emotional roller coaster ride with Lutheran Child and Family Services and Lutheran Adoption Services in Detroit we managed to adopt him. Micah, is our middle child. He was born during my second year of ministry at Prince of Peace in Cincinnati. Aaron is our youngest. He also was born in Cincinnati on Palm Sunday no less. (Talk about a busy week for a pastor.) Each of our boys brings joy and challenges to our lives. Other than salvation itself they truly are God's most gracious blessing in my life.
In 1983 I entered Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. This was a step on my way to becoming a pastor. While I didn't learn how to be a pastor there I did learn a few things about being a pastor. Two important things about my four years at the seminary are: 1. They made me a decent theologian; and 2. The abiding friendships I made. The most significant friendship being with Victor Belton. We are seemingly soul mates. In fact people are often dumbfounded by how well we work together because we seem to share a brain. Victor is one of those rare friends with whom I can be totally honest. We laugh and cry together. We gladly and willingly hold one another accountable in all aspects of our lives. God greatly blessed me with such a friend.
After graduating from the seminary in 1987 I entered my first call as an Associate Pastor in Cincinnati. The congregation was (is) Prince of Peace (POP). POP is an urban inner-city church committed to serving the low-income community in which they are set. During my first year of service there I completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education. My supervisor for my two basic units was Rev. Joel Hempel who also was the senior pastor of POP. His passion for ministry was infectious. The first three years at POP taught me a lot of about team ministry, responsibility, and accountability.
In 1990, after nineteen years at POP, Joel accepted a call. I became the only pastor at POP. For three years I struggled to cast a renewed vision for POP and move them forward. In 1993 after struggling with leadership and the lack of leadership for three years I was quickly burning out. I sought out Henry Marksberry, my former CPE supervisor, in the fall of 1992 to help me focus personally and professionally. By February 1993 I determined that it was time for me to move on in ministry. I must honestly say that when I departed POP I was very angry with its leadership and myself for failing to move them. Perspective has allowed me to see that God used that time to grow me in my understanding of to whom the church belongs and who it is that saves. It's not me.
I accepted the call to serve St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Los Angeles in June 1993. The move for me and my family has been a good one. God blessed the eight years I served there thus far. As is the case in life I continued to learn and grow through both positive and negative experiences. In 1998 God lead the congregation to take a large faith step and purchase a piece of property adjacent to the church and open a preschool ministry. This new ministry has met a major objective of opening the church to the community surrounding the church.
During my time at St. Paul I was blessed to use my gifts beyond the local parish and serve on the steering community of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod’s 1995 and 1998 National Youth Gathering and as the director of its Cross Cultural Gathering. Additionally, I chaired the Los Angeles Nehemiah Project, comprised of a group of Lutheran congregations inside Los Angeles' beltway, exploring new ways of doing ministry together. I have served on the LCMS’ Board for Black Ministry Services and its steering committee of the annual Black Ministry Family Convocation. I also served on the Pacific Southwest District of the LCMS’ Board of Directors and several committees. I’ve been trained to help pastors and churches refocus and revitalize their ministries through Church Resource Ministries. In the past I completed the United Way’s Volunteer Leadership Development Program and have served on the Board of Directors of Lutheran Social Services of the Miami Valley and as the Vice-President of the Board of Directors for Cooperative Financial Services in Cincinnati.
In 2001 I accepted a call to serve the Pacific Southwest District of the LCMS as one of four Mission and Ministry Facilitators. I served Region One of the District. In this region I had the privilege of working with over sixty congregations and ministries as they focused their ministry on God’s harvest. This new role gave me the opportunity to use the gifts, talents and skills God has been developing in me over a lifetime.
In August of 2005 God lead me to accept a call to serve as the Director of Training at the Center for U.S. Missions located on the campus of Concordia University in Irvine, California. This new adventure was challenging but very fufilling as I worked to equip church planters and others who are passionate about reaching the lost as I would have been if God had not sent people from Trinity to share the good news of his Son with me and my family.
In July 2009 I became the Executive Director for Mission Development in the Southeastern District (SED) of the LCMS. In my role I work with the team at the SED to partner with churches and mission societies to plant at least 100 new missions in our District by the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on October 31, 2017. This position required a move across the country. The move was difficult because our sons remained in Southern California.
On September 1, 2013 I joined the staff of Abiding Savior Lutheran Church and School in Lake Forest, California as an Associate Pastor. My primary area of responsibility at the church is outreach. One of the great blessings about being back in the parish at this time is that for the first time since 1986 my wife and I are serving together at the same place.
I have two hobbies. The first is development of church and school management software. Church Membership Keeper, my church management software is geared toward managing membership data. I sell CMK as shareware on the internet. My other hobby I inherited from my father. I am a numismatist (i.e. coin collector). I have a small but growing coin collection including several rare coins. I'm also trying to get my sons caught up in this hobby by giving them coins of their own.