Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lent: Day 1

 I am starting a journey in picture and word.  Everyday during Lent 2015 I will be taking a picture that is a visual depiction of a word.  Each word that is used comes from a list provided by Rethink Church, a United Methodist program.  You can follow my journey here on this page and by following me (toprocklife) on Instagram.

Day 1 (2/18/15):

I am dust.  Out of the dry and dirty earth I was formed into being.  Yet I was made in God's own image.  Images hold power because they often show what words cannot explain but words, especially those of the Bible, give us a foundation for understanding.

Lenten Journey

So what cool thing are you doing this year?  Doing the 'give up sweets or chocolate' thing or are you a person that is willing to give up Facebook? If not, are you still searching for that thing that will make Lent a great spiritual journey?  Are you wondering what the future of your church will look like? If yes, then what you need to do is listen.  Listen to your family, listen to your church family, listen to your community.

In the Church world, we call listening to your community as "community exegesis".  Imagine a world where people were in tune with what is happening around them.  Imagine a world that people took on the causes of their neighborhood.  Imagine a world where people worked together and fought to reduce the blights that bring down wholeness within our schools, churches and homes.  Community exegesis is the avenue for us to find out what we have been doing wrong or what we have ignored and it also points out what God is already up to on our streets and in our neighborhoods.

During Lent this year, you should give up your idea of what your community is and start from scratch.  Preconceived notions of stereotypes and generalizations are what builds barriers and that needs to stop. Listen for these things happening around you, listen for what needs done, listen to your community and find out where you, your family and your church fits in to the puzzle.

Prayer walks, knocking on a neighbor's door, sitting in a coffee shop (while not playing on your phone) or attending an event at the library are all great ways for us to step outside our normal life and see what is happening around us.  During Lent we can be witnesses to things that need fixed in our community and we can witness what is doing well within our towns.

So in this Lenten season, listen.

For a great Lenten devotional, the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary has a great resource.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Southeast Asia Mission Trip - Preview


In two short weeks I will be on a plane with my destination being half-way around the world. As an introduction into the world of cross-cultural missions, I am joining a group of individuals traveling from the World Mission Initiative at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary to warmer climates to witness in the work of the Spirit.  We call this a mission trip but we are not going to evangelize to the non-Christian, build orphanages or give them anything material but we are going to learn, teach and encourage believers of Christ.

Our two weeks will be spent visiting Christians throughout the southern regions of the country.  Visiting this country will be a great task for me as I only have a few word vocabulary and know the bare minimum of the culture.  I do, however, look forward to the food because I am an adventurous eater.

In our time together, I hope to grow in relationship with those I am traveling with but I also would like to build lasting relationships with the people we meet in country.  This is why we go on these trips; we are there to strengthen the Church and grow in our witness.

Please pray for us as we travel and pray that we become better disciples through this experience.  I will keep this blog updated as often as I can when overseas and I will give a grand report when we return.

Blessings and peace,

Sunday, January 26, 2014

January 19, 2014 Sermon

Today’s Readings:

John 1:32-42
Isaiah 49:1-7

Title “Community Placement”

God has called you to a certain place within our community.  It is your
responsibility to discern your call and it is the Church’s responsibility
to help you in your journey of discerning that call.

Additional Readings:
Psalm 40: 1-11
1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Challenge Question:
Do you think the Church should conform to society or do you
think society should be more like the church? Is there a way for
us as Christians to learn from the skills and structure of society?

Blessings to you all,
Ryan Lucas

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 20, 2013 Audio Sermon

This sermon was recorded in Apollo, PA at the First UCC of Apollo. For info on the church, please see my last post.  The title of the message is "God of Miracles".

Editorial Note:
In the sermon I mention that miracles do not occur at random.  I would like to make an addition to that comment.  I truly believe that God does miracles through the Holy Spirit every day whether it be in the form of healing, prosperity, salvation, etc. and needs no help from us as people to do those miracles. To that - I am starting to read my sermons from an outline instead of just reading a manuscript and I left that part out.  Thanks for understanding, I'm still kinda new at this :)


Monday, January 14, 2013

On Sunday, January 13, 2013 I had the honor of preaching at the First United Church of Christ in Apollo, PA.  The title of this message is "Raging Rapids", the audio is above, and the texts used are here. In attendance were my parents, wife, daughter(who you can hear talking throughout), and the very warm and welcoming Apollo congregation.  I thank them for allowing me to preach for them and asking me to preach again this weekend.  First United Church of Christ's information can be found here.  Also the service starts at 9:15 on Sunday, January 20th if you would like to join us in worship.  The title of my sermon this weekend is "God of Miracles" and the scripture is based on the Revised Common Lectionary. Thank you all for your love and support throughout my ministry.

Blessings and grace to you,


Friday, November 30, 2012

How can we change from a congregation based ministry to a community minded ministry?

Currently I am in the process of reading Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America edited by Darrell L. Guder and have discovered some profound insights into the Church in our society.  The section that I have found to be intriguing addresses denominationalism of the Christian churches in America and also how our Church has changed to be more of a managed process than a spiritual center.  Many reasons have caused this to happen but the premise of the issue at hand it that our society has changed so drastically that even something as an integral facet of society as the Church could not keep up.

The early Church in America was very important to the building of the frontier and a basis for much of the social life in colonial villages.  This was one of the last times we can see that the “church” was “successful”.  Other events in the late 19th and 20th centuries increased membership of churches like the tent revivals and the return of soldiers from war. Although membership may have increased, the connection of church and modern society was slowly falling apart. By the 1960s, the acceptance of individualism had taken root and the connection between the average American and the church was separated by a large and deep canyon. This proverbial canyon has gotten larger as the years have gone on because individualism is growing stronger and the church is still doing the same activities.  

So how can the institution of the traditional church transform into a missional organization?  The church must change from wanting people to come into their Sunday services to a place that teaches people to be loving Christians in their daily lives. The church must also change from a set of certain people going to the same building every Sunday to a place that shares the ideals of a Christian based community in the places that we live.  This may sound like a teaching that currently takes place in many churches but is randomly applied to people’s lives.  

Churches should also work together in the communities to solve social issues and to address the needs of the people in that community.  When was the last time that you have heard of a group of churches, across denominational lines, come together and truly change a community? Now I may be a little young to answer this but I would venture that it hasn’t happened in quite some time.  A quick look around my town, I found about 12 churches in my town.  A couple of those have closed down and I wonder what the other churches are doing for the community.

We need to change; I need to change, you need to change, the system of our society must change.  We have to become the “city on a hill” seeking God through everything we do.  Missional Church also states that simply internalizing our faith and knowing salvation as a personal experience is only half of what the Gospel teaches.  Are we going to simply ignore half the reason why Jesus came to Earth? Our church structure is not set up to do both sides of Jesus’ ministry. For many years, we have focused on the self-centralization of the Gospel and how it pertains to us but what we are missing is the participatory side of salvation.  Living a life like Jesus and mirroring his ministry is a crucial part of our beliefs. We can think and believe anything that we want but if we don’t represent these ideas in our life and be Christians to our neighbors than it is for not.  A friend of mine once was asked the question “Which is more important discipleship or evangelism?” His response was simple: “How can a bird fly with only one wing.” We must present an equal balance in our lives with enough power or we will never get off the ground.

So back to the question at hand, how can we change?  My idea is complex and I can’t explain every detail because frankly I don’t know those problems/solutions at this time.

The only way to change people is either by a catastrophic event or a slow process.  Since the world is not going to end on December 21st, 2012, I will use a model for a slow process.  We have to start with what we have.  The leaders in the church and denominations that have been establishing themselves for nearly centuries are actually great tools to work with.  They have established programs and missions in our communities but they have not reached their full potential.  These efforts have not used resources allocated to the community but only the ones given to the congregation.  If the dozen or so churches and pastors in my community were to work together in a common mission, we could essentially transform our town into a Christian community.  We would have the ability to feed the hungry, clothe the needy, minister to those in times of trouble, worship and praise God together, love one another, and have a large support system of people that live life just as you do.

I understand that this model does not fit with the current society and not too many people would be happy if we flipped all of our churches and resources to a different function.  The process would literally mean a reversal of what has been undone over the last century. With the Holy Spirit working, this may take a generation or so.  Mindsets of the daily life as a resident of a town would need some reform and we can start by teaching our children these concepts.  This is not some crazy stance at making our kids Amish but merely changing the ideals we teach our children to become involved in community.

There are many organizations and councils in place that actually do some of this work but more than likely are just spinning their wheels.  I asked a pastor friend of mine if his community had something like a council of local pastors and his response was yes, but they never do anything.  It is a shame to see that we have a highly evolved system of communications and we can’t even get pastors in a community to work together.

I would like to challenge you as a believer, congregation member, and/or citizen of a certain area: Go ask your local pastor what they have done to work with other churches to better share Christ’s love in the community. Please, don’t settle for mediocrity and be a side-line believer.  Care about your neighbors and get involved in your church’s efforts to spread the love of Christ.