A Tribute to a Great Tipton Resident

A couple of years ago, I was privileged to meet Bill & Betty Cunningham of Tipton. This couple moved here in their retirement years and settled down in our community. What many have never realized is the work and accomplishments that Bill Cunningham achieved in his lifetime. Today’s article is a tribute to the life of Wilbert (Bill) A. Cunningham.

Mr. Cunningham graduated from Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis and then went to Purdue University. After attending Purdue, Bill received graduate degrees in Theology from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. He was a learned man, receiving an additional graduate degree at Michigan State University, as well. What was unique about Bill was his specialty training in dying, grief counseling, stress management, and alcohol addiction counseling. I’ll come back to that thought later.

With the learning, came great opportunities for Mr. Cunningham. He was a college professor and administrator for 13 years at Kentucky Christian College and the Great Lakes Bible College. He did something that many of us have never thought of – he taught Law Enforcement Ethics. This was a class he enjoyed teaching. Many law enforcement personnel sat under his teaching at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. We owe a great deal of appreciation to Bill for pouring his life into law enforcement recruits as they prepared at the Academy.

Not only did Bill serve in the classroom, but he also served in pastorates for over 20 years. These pastorates were in Minnesota, Indiana, Kentucky and Maryland. Some of the churches he served in were large congregations, where he was able to minister to hundreds of individuals each week. If you knew Bill, you would have known that he truly had a pastor’s heart!

If you have ever traveled or visited some of the big hospitals in the Indianapolis area, you would probably run into someone who knew Bill, as well. For you see, Bill served as a hospital chaplain for many years, as well. His servants’ heart thrust him into ministry opportunities in the medical field that many pastors wouldn’t even pursue if they had the opportunity. But not Bill – he was loved by doctor’s nurses and patients in area hospitals.

Bill wrote an excellent book on law enforcement chaplaincy, which I own and had him sign for me. The book is a classic work that gives basic info on how to get started as a chaplain and what to do as a chaplain for local law enforcement agencies. It is an invaluable tool for any pastor, chaplain, or law enforcement agency. So many copies were sold that a second edition came out and is still available today.

On a personal note, when Bill Cunningham found out that I was a chaplain for the Tipton County Sherriff’s department and the Tipton Police Department, he would call me and offer advice and counsel. There were times when Bill would call me and ask if he could take me out to lunch and teach me and give counsel regarding the pastorate and ministry. On several occasions, Bill would love to come to my office and just sit and see me work and prepare sermons for the following Sunday. Bill loved preachers and he loved law enforcement personnel.

The story doesn’t end there – for you see, Bill was know around America for his involvement with the I.C.P.C. (International Conference for Police Chaplains). This national accrediting agency for chaplains is the largest of its kind in the world – and Bill, at one time, served as their President. This was an honor and great recognition all over North America (and really the world)! So, his influence was not just in Indiana – but global. What a testimony!

I could go on and on about Bill. He was my friend. He would come and hear me preach and smile and say, “Amen” to the things I said in my sermon. His wife is a dear friend of our family and has always been supportive and helpful and encouraging to my wife and I. Bill was a blessing – and his legacy and testimony lives on.

Last fall, Bill had a major surgery at Riverview Hospital and just wasn’t strong enough, physically, to bounce back. He passed away and went to be with the Lord on November 21st, 2013. He is survived by his wife, Betty, who still lives here in Tipton. We lost a great warrior for the faith and a great encourager for our community law enforcement and area pastors. I wanted to write this tribute to Betty, in memory of her husband, Bill. Bill was my friend and a great encourager to me – something more preachers need in this hostile world we’re living in today.

Thank you, Bill, for your love, care, concern, achievements, and investments in my life. Thank you, Bill, for your love for Police Officers across America. Thank you, Bill, for your love for the local church. And, thank you, Bill, for investing in me, the short time I knew you. I only wish I had known you more years that I did. Thank you, Bill!

Having Hope in a Frenzied World

When President Bill Clinton was running for President back in 1992, he did something no other Presidential candidate ever did – he went on MTV and appealed to young voters. The nation was turned upside down by his appearance and the youth of America were mesmerized by his appeal to them, as a voting block.

Questions from a live audience were asked to then candidate Clinton. Questions about his underwear and his favorite rock song were just a few of the frivolous questions asked to the then soon-to-be President. But the atmosphere soon changed when a 17-year old girl named Dahlia stood up to ask a question – proving to everyone watching that even a person from the Generation X age group was still able to seek questions applied to the deeper meaning of life.

“Mr. President,” Dahlia said, “it seems to me that singer Kurt Cobain’s recent suicide exemplified the emptiness that many in our generation feel. How do you propose to...teach our youth how important life is?”

That question, as great as it was, made then candidate Clinton hesitate. The New York Times Newspaper reported, after this appearance, that the president did not seem to have a ‘legislative answer’ for this problem. And, I tend to agree with the newspaper’s assessment of this interview. After all, life’s deepest questions cannot be addressed through a legislative bill or some political answer by some popular politician.

As Clinton answered the question, his response was clouded by a touchy-feely language characteristic by our culture. Clinton suggested that one doesn’t really have to know life’s meaning, they just need to feel good about themselves. Really?

What young people needed, according to Clinton, was an improved self-esteem – the feeling that, “...they are the most important person in the world to somebody.” He told the kids on that MTV television set that to avoid suicide, one must remember that, “...there can always be a better tomorrow” – a line that perhaps he took from some movie or novel.

We all must remember that life cannot be reduced to feeling good. After all, Kurt Cobain, the singer who had then just committed suicide – used drugs to feel better. Obviously, the drugs didn’t work and his life ended abruptly by self-inflecting wounds.

Keep Running!

edgeIt’s hard to believe how quickly our children have grown up. My wife and I have two boys – one is 15 years of age and the other one, age 13. When they were little, I can remember chasing them around our big back yard in the country and trying to catch them! What fun we had! Those days certainly were days that wore us out quickly.

Running is a topic I know some things about. In high school, I ran on the cross-country team. I qualified for some important races and even traveled to Europe my sophomore year in high school and ran in a race. Pacing myself and finishing the race was always a huge joy in my life. Though I wasn’t an exceptional runner with 1st place standings, I certainly qualified and finished.

As we think of the Christian life – isn’t that exactly what the Lord requires of us? We’re commanded to run the race before us (I Corinthians 9:24). We’re never commanded to come in 1st place – we’re just to run and finish the course before us. If you’re saved and know Jesus Christ as your personal savior, you’re already a winner. We’ve won the fight – because Christ has won it for us. This wonderful truth compels us to go on for the Lord. Certainly, this should bring a fresh hope for every Christian.

As we run, we run with patience and stamina. We allow our Lord to set the pace and He runs with us. We don’t stop and give up – we continue on. Continuing on for the Lord is such a powerful truth that can transform any soul. This gives us purpose when we feel like giving up. It gives us a since of belonging and meaning in this world. Saying, “I’m in a race and I have a purpose to finish” is a wonderful truth that can transform the mind of any Christian.

There are several men in Tipton County that are planning on running in the mini-marathon next spring in Indianapolis. Just this week, I know of a man in our church who will participate in a mini-marathon this weekend. Running in that race will not be something he just ‘decided’ to do a few days ago – it has been a task of training and discipline. And, it’s a challenge I’m sure he’s looking forward to doing.

Many times, Christians start off in a sprint to the finish – only to be sidetracked or distracted along the way. Sadly, many become ineffective in the Christian race. Peter warned us that we cannot, “…fall from your own steadfastness…” (II Peter 3:17). This falling is not a falling from grace, but rather it’s a falling from effectiveness as a Christian. Many are so useless in the Christian life because Satan has harnessed their minds and bodies to live and walk in the flesh. But, God’s Word tells the Christian to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh.

May God help all of us to run in the race that is set before us so that we can be the soldiers for Christ that He has called us to be. As we run, we must start out strong – but we must finish. No race will ever mean anything to us, unless we finish it. My trip to Europe will always be a memorial trip – because I ran in a race and finished. I didn’t come in 1st place – but, I finished in a respectable fashion that helped my Cross-Country team and my High school. May God be pleased as we run – and may we run with patience, fortitude, stamina, and a value of purpose about us that will glorify Jesus Christ along the way.