Tag Archives: Dr. John Rawlings

They Were All Here; Now They’re All There!

The Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year holiday season is an especially difficult time to experience the death of our loved ones.  I know this from both personal and vicarious experiences.  For example, I preached the funeral of my own mother just three days before Christmas 1980.

A few days ago, word came to me that former classmate from college, ministry colleague, and friend Ed Dobson of Grand Rapids, Michigan, had died just one day after Christmas 2015, following a fifteen-year battle with ALS.

Pastor Ed Dobson  is debuting a new film series called Ed's Story through local producer Flannel.  (Cory Olsen | The Grand Rapids Press)

Pastor Ed Dobson

Yesterday, my elderly friend and mentor of almost forty years, Dr. A.V. Henderson, passed from this life to the next.


He was the last of my unofficial board of mentors—ministry men to whom I turned for advice and counsel.  Suddenly, I find myself thinking, “Now where do I turn when I need an experienced human being to suggest a course of action when I have questions?”

Today, and relative to that, the thought that continually circles my mind is this reality: They—that is, my mentors—were here, but now they are all there—that is, heaven.  From the multitude of those thoughts, I find reasons for reflection and for gratitude.  Perhaps quite by “accident,” I have been blessed from my early adulthood with marvelous mentors.

Soon after getting married in 1970, my young bride and I moved from hometown in the southern city of Knoxville (TN) to metropolitan Detroit.  From the first Sunday at Temple Baptist Church of Detroit, their pastor G. B. Vick took us under his wing, treating us as if we were his very own.  Old time Temple members will appreciate this statement—I have eaten many lunches at Snow Whites’ in Detroit, whether I wanted to eat there or not.  If Mister Vick said, “I’ll see you at Snow Whites,” it meant that we were going to Snow Whites!

If I had ever missed the example from my own father, Dr. Vick was to me what a Christian gentleman should be.  While there were other men in America whose churches were larger than Temple in the mid-70s, there was no larger ministry example in my life than the gracious G.B. Vick.  Although he died in 1975, I miss him sorely.

During my three-year tenure as a student at Bob Jones University in the late 1960s, I was privileged to be on stage with one of the world’s leading Shakespearean authorities—Dr. Bob Jones Jr.  His father, Bob Sr. died during my freshman year at the school.

Perhaps it was in an early rehearsal of The Merchant of Venice, that Dr. Bob and I first became acquainted.  He played the role of Shylock, while I was a lowly jailer with no lines at all.  But those hours on stage together afforded me opportunities to spend time with a very personable Dr. Bob.

Through the years, we disagreed on a few ministry personalities and philosophies, but I cherish to this day many conversations and correspondences.  Once, after making some bold statements to him, I waited for him to virtually dissect me.  Instead, I received the most grandfatherly advice and warm affection, not the tongue-lashing that I feared might come. Those are things one doesn’t catch from a pulpit on the platform.

The name R.O. Woodworth and Baptist Bible College have been synonymous since the inception of the college in 1950.  For decades “Reg” was the business manager and taught personal evangelism, among other courses.  One cannot talk for more than a few minutes with any graduate of BBC and the name Dr. R.O. Woodworth not be mentioned!

Because I had married into the Woodworth family in 1970, he was just Uncle Reg, and his wife—Mrs. Woodworth—who had tended the bookstore at the college, was Aunt Dorothy.  I can still see and hear my oldest two children—when they were young—crying in fear that Uncle Reg was going to die in our living room!  Why? Because he was standing on his head, trying to prove to them how young and strong he was (in his 80s!), and his face had turned 20 shades of bright red!

Although I haven’t lived in Paducah (KY) for more than 25 years, I still miss his annual stops in Paducah, breakfasts together, and his passionate preaching in the church where I was pastor.

Of all my mentors, I probably spent the least amount of time with Dr. Lee Roberson, long-time pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga (TN).  Our paths crossed numerous times through the years, usually at conferences in the 1970s-1980s.  I seldom asked for his advice directly.  However, anyone who ever heard or read his sermons received practical advice in short sentences.

Without disparaging other pastors for whom I worked, and without listing the many reasons for this statement, Dr. Jerry Falwell was the greatest pastor I’ve ever known.  After my first six months in Lynchburg, I was discouraged, thinking, “Jerry doesn’t even know who I am!”


One Sunday evening, as I headed to a side entrance to the auditorium at 701 Thomas Road, a black Buick Electra 225 screeched to a halt in the parking space beside me.  Out jumped Falwell, tickled no doubt that he had startled me.  He slapped his arm around my shoulders and with that voice of authority said, “Dale Peterson!  I just got off the plane from De-troit, Michigan!  You know, not one person asked me about Liberty Baptist College or Thomas Road Church or Old Time Gospel Hour, but everybody I met asked me about you!  We’re glad to have you onboard!”

I learned through the years that Jerry truly loved everyone.  He could walk away from a sound stage or studio after interviews by celebrity types, but he was just as interested in the cameraman or the lady calling the lights as he was the Phil Donahue’s!  Another excellent illustration of his love for people was in my church office one morning.

Before walking into an auditorium filled with pastors one day, I asked Jerry to hang on for a minute, and we let everyone else leave the room.  My youngest daughter Joy—12 years old at the time, wanted to interview Falwell for a class project.  His attention instantly shifted to Joy.  He asked if she had her tape recorder ready.  He had her sit in my chair while he made himself comfortable on my desk.

Joy had her questions written on 3-by-5 cards, and asked them one by one.  Jerry Falwell treated her like she was a contemporary of Barbara Walters or Katie Couric!

I would like to think that some of those noble characteristics rubbed off on this pastor.  Few days have gone by since Jerry’s death that I haven’t missed him.

B.R. Lakin, like all the others named, was a true friend to preachers everywhere.  I had listened to and read his sermons for a few years before finally meeting him in Southgate (MI) in the early 1970s.  Shortly after hearing him in person, I invited him to speak to a youth rally in southern Michigan.


Picture this, if you can—2400 high school teenagers and their youth leaders sitting spell-bound listening to an old southern evangelist from Fort Gay, West Virginia.  I still meet people who attended that meeting—and they all remember the lights suddenly going out and Dr. Lakin quickly saying, “Just hold!  It’ll go out quicker than that for some of you one of these days!”

Then, just as quickly as they had gone out, the lights came back on.  I will refrain from divulging the name of the young man who hit the master light switch in the control room at Temple Baptist Church.  A few minutes later, after finishing his sermon, Dr. Lakin invited young people to come to Christ, and dozens were saved that evening.

Three years after entering vocational youth ministry, I accepted the role of youth pastor under Dr. Tom Malone Sr., founder of Emmanuel Baptist Church and Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac (MI).  Malone was a preaching machine—a preacher’s preacher, with a style all his own.

tom malone sr

I asked Doc one time, “Doc, how do you get your sermons?  I know you don’t just subscribe to The Sword of the Lord, and get other preachers’ outlines because that publication usually prints yours!”  I’ve never forgotten his reply.  Without going into lengthy detail as I tell it, he outlined for me how he read the Bible each morning, and continued reading until God had spoken to him.  Then he said, “ … and I have found that what God uses [to do those things in my heart], He will use in the lives of others.”

The one mentor who influenced my life over the longest period of time was Dr. John Rawlings.  My first introduction to Dr. John was in the late 1950s when I listened to his national radio program—The Landmark Hour.  It was the live broadcast of the evening services from Landmark Baptist Temple in Cincinnati (OH).

As a child, I loved to hear Dr. John preach because he told a lot of stories as he spoke.  As I listened to those messages, it never entered my mind that this man would one day become a dear friend.

Dr. John & Dale

Dr. John & Dale

Finally, the last of the old-timers to hang up his sword is my friend Dr. A.V. Henderson, whose passing has prompted my reflections today.  As I write these words, I am trying to book hotels from Michigan to Texas.  A younger pastor friend from Waterford (MI) and I are planning to make the journey to attend the memorial service in Haslet, Texas.

BTW, do you pray?  If so, would you pray for our safety as we make this unscheduled trek?  Further, and perhaps more sobering, let me ask this—whose lives are you influencing for the cause of Christ?  While we’re praying, let’s ask God to use us to positively impact others for His glory.

The men mentioned above are a handful of the men and women whose lives have touched and encouraged my personal and ministry life.  With whatever inherent faults I have, these are people who helped make my life more Christ-like because they cared about others, including me.

One of my prayers—since childhood—could be summarized in a song that George Beverly Shay used to sing.

If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody, with a word or song,
If I can show somebody, how they’re travelling wrong,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

My living shall not be in vain,
Then my living shall not be in vain
If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

If I can do my duty, as a good man ought,
If I can bring back beauty, to a world up wrought,
If I can spread love’s message, as the Master taught,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

My living shall not be in vain,
Then my living shall not be in vain
If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
Then my living shall not be in vain.


Well, no airport intercom announcement calls me to board a flight, but common sense tells me that I’d better go pack my suitcase for Texas.  Thanks for praying with me!

Dr. John Rawlings: A Tribute

As a child, I would often run out to the car on Sunday nights following church and turn on the radio (In the early 1950s the radio of our car was not dependent on the ignition key.)  I loved to hear the raspy voice of the host … and if I got to the radio in time, I could often hear a quartet sing before the voice of The Landmark Hour began speaking.The unique voice of Dr. John Rawlings was silenced about 8:15pm Wednesday night, 30 January 2013—the day after his 99th birthday.  While the last enemy that man faces is death, I have it in my mind that for Dr. John, death came as a friend to release him from the frail frame that held him captive in this world.

While my relationship initially, as a child, was with a voice on the radio, it did not remain at that level.  I first met Dr. John at a radio rally at the Fountain Park Baptist Church on Inskip Road in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he was speaking and The Landmark Quartet was singing in the early 1960s.  I loved hearing him preach, in part because he always told a lot of stories.

High school years gave way to college, but following undergraduate, when I began vocational ministry, my path would once again cross that of Dr. John Rawlings, pastor of the Landmark Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.  I soon learned that Dr. John was not only filled with stories, but advice for preachers—young and old!

For example, while leading the music for a conference on evangelism one evening in the early 1970s at Temple Baptist Church in Detroit, I seated the audience, and then took my seat on the platform beside Dr. John.  He immediately turned to me a filled my ear with what I should be doing musically as a young minister.  That was only the beginning!

Through the years, I have cherished the friendship that we shared—and I remember the phone call when it first dawned on me that we truly had a friendship.  A tragic and personal event had rocked my world and I was not taking Dr. John’s persistent calls for a couple of weeks.  When I finally called him, he immediately confronted me, “Son, why haven’t you been taking or returning my phone calls?”

I took a deep breath and simply said, “Doc, I was embarrassed.  I was ashamed, and I didn’t want to face you.”  Then his reply—“Dale, am I not your friend?”  I have cherished those words.  Dr. John could be as tough as nails, but he also knew how to be tender.

Dr. John & Dale

Dr. John & Dale

The Saturday before Christmas 2006, I received a voice mail message from Dr. John.  My son Justin had been killed in Iraq on October 1, and he had called at least once a week just to check on me.  On this day, he left a voice mail stating that he knew this was my first Christmas without Justin, and that he loved me, was thinking about me, and praying for me.  I saved that voice mail every 21 days until just a few weeks ago, when I inadvertently erased it.

Neither time nor space allows me to adequately convey my love for Dr. John and his influence in my life.  In fact, I just turned and said to my wife a few minutes ago, “It seems that almost all my mentors have now died on me!”  (To which she smiled and said, “But honey, you’re not 30 anymore!”  I suppose the implication is that I’m getting old, but regardless of my age, life won’t be the same without Dr. John in it.

BTW, do you pray?  If so, would you join me in praying for the extended Rawlings family?  Dr. John had four sons—Herb, Harold, Carroll, and George—who will miss their dad.


Strange, isn’t it—how we can so easily develop misconceptions about almost anything, especially people, and especially in the ministerial world?

 For years I’ve heard how “impossible” (or at least very difficult) it is to reach the young people of Great Britain or Europe with the Gospel.  However, as I sit here in my usual “office” at Frankie and Benny’s at the Birmingham (England) airport, awaiting a flight to France, and reflecting on last week’s youth camp at Cefn Lea Park in Newtown, Powys (Wales), I’m not sure that I how accurate the assessment of others has been. 

Let me explain. 

Four years ago roughly, Dan Brown of LIFT Student Ministries, along with one of his board members Ben Robinson, accompanied me on a whirlwind exploratory excursion to Great Britain.  Dan has operated a growing number of “LIFT Camps” in the eastern half of American for several years—and quite successfully.  In fact, if memory serves me correctly, I spoke for one of Dan’s camps, even before he called them “LIFT!” in Monticello, Kentucky.  (How could I ever forget that camp, because they had more frogs hopping around the property than were in the plagues of Egypt!  Of maybe it’s my guilt for encouraging several of the campers to collect dozens of frogs and put them in his father Harold’s room that I remember.)

 Somehow, I felt that if I could get Dan here to see what I was seeing in the potential of reaching young people for Christ—and it worked!  Few men (or women) that I know share the level of burden or passion for young people that my friend Dan Brown has.  I see it and sense it increasingly.

Our first year camp was actually quite small—but the results of young people coming to faith in Christ as their Savior were quite large!  I also remember thinking that it was the toughest youth camp that I’d ever been involved with, simply because of the behavior of my of the young people who attended.  Several of them came to us from social services, and were known to be “problem teenagers.”  But we loved them, and I think they sensed that, and responded accordingly.

The second year of LIFT-UK the numbers climbed in every way.  An impact for Christ was growing—and the impact was affecting young people from not only Europe, but also on the American college-aged staff of LIFT … and on me!  Many of the first-year campers returned and the spiritual growth in them was self-evident.  Once again by week’s end, many campers had made significant commitments to God for salvation, holy living, and Christian service.

This year the groundswell continued with even greater evidence.  First, we jointly operated LIFT-UK 2010 with the BBF-GB youth camp, a collection of ministry partner churches scattered around Great Britain, but representative campers also came from other European countries.  In the analysis of the executive director of Cefn Lea Park, this was the largest gathering of a group of Christian teenagers in the history of the conference centre!

At times the crowd noise was almost deafening, especially when you have nearly 300 campers and staff all assembled in the dining room, everyone talking, laughing, dishes clattering, etc.!  And to listen and watch this crowd in action during the praise and worship time was almost beyond description—especially if one is expecting the misconception to be the reality!

And the behavioral difference over a three year period is also notable.  While are a couple of layers of workers between me and the campers these days, I do believe that this was the most well-behaved crowd to-date.  The difference that Christ makes in the spiritual lives is readily seen from one year to the next.  The pastors and other Christian workers were all abuzz with excitement with the spiritual advancements!

While I can’t say that the volume of decisions made by young people coming to faith in Christ, surprised me, I must admit that it just doesn’t fit the misconception.  What did arrest my attention was that on opening night, rather than somewhat typically closing night, most of the young people who accepted Christ as their personal Savior during did so that first night!  By the closing assembly on Friday morning, 42 teenagers had come to faith!

But that isn’t all—great as that is!

At the conclusion of his Thursday evening message, my friend Ed Trinkle, speaker for the week who did a masterful job of connecting with the audience, plainly asked all from the audience who were ready to say to God, “I’ve been allowing you to speak to my heart and I’m now ready to ‘lay it all down’ and serve you full time for the rest of my life,” to stand to their feet, then come and gather in front of the stage for special instructions, prayer, and then counsel.

I was in tears as I stood at the top level of the auditorium and counted 76 teenagers standing in front of that stage in response to Ed’s clear instructions!  When it was all sorted, and the individual counseling was concluded, 40 young people had truly committed themselves to ministry and service for Christ!

That kind of scene, with that kind of result, just doesn’t fit the misconception that so many in kingdom work have.  Each of us who have been a part of this new phenomenon believes that we are on the leading edge of a new wave of the working of God amongst the young people and churches of Great Britain!  And we’re witnessing it firsthand!

BTW, do you pray?  If so, would you join several of us praying for the 42 teenagers who are new believers as they return to their homes and friends?  We understand the spiritual battle that will surely take place in their hearts and minds.  Several of them will certainly struggle in the months to come as they decide daily whether to follow the old life or the new.

Would you also pray for the 40 young people who committed their lives to service for the King of Kings?  They too will be waging war to live out that which they committed on that closing night of LIFT-UK 2010.

Finally, would you pray that the Lord would continue to use me in leaving a lasting impact on an entire movement of God to reach young people in Europe?  There aren’t a lot of 60-year-olds who still pursue a vision aggressively in youth ministry—but I’m asking that you pray for one—me!

And to those individuals, pastors, and churches who invested financially and prayerfully through our ministry, you can know that your investment has yielded history-making and eternal results!  Thank you!



John Rawlings & Dale Peterson (2008)Yesterday afternoon, I drove to Richwood, Kentucky, and spent the night at the Holiday Inn Express where I stay whenever I make this trip and need to stay overnight. And you may be wondering, “So, what’s so special about that, Dale?”

I’m glad you asked … I would be having breakfast and spending time with one of my mentors – Dr. John Rawlings. Humor me for a few minutes … I’m going somewhere with this.

Dr. John is someone that I have written about on previous occasions, but for readers who may not be familiar with him – Dr. John Rawlings was one of the key leaders in the founding of the Baptist Bible Fellowship in 1950, and the only one of those original five leaders that is still living. He was the senior pastor at Landmark Baptist Temple in Cincinnati, Ohio for decades, and was a pioneer in Christian broadcasting with his nationwide program, The Landmark Hour, which was a live broadcast of the evening services at Landmark Baptist.

And this is where I enter the picture.

As a child of 7-8 years of age, I would often run out of Sunday evening church services in my hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, jump into the family car, turn on the radio (in those days you could operate the radio without a key in the ignition) and listen to The Landmark Hour. I enjoyed the Landmark Quartet and John Rawlings’ preaching, in part because he told a lot of stories when he preached, and my heart was drawn closer to the Lord every time I would listen.

Five decades later – (today) – I found myself sitting across the table from Dr. John and his son Harold at the Bob Evans restaurant, still listening to and being inspired by the words and vision of John Rawlings. As I made the drive back to the Detroit area tonight, I meditated on several things from today’s experiences with Dr. John, Harold, and another of the four Rawlings sons – Herb. Let me share a couple of thoughts …

When I first began listening to Dr. John (although he was not DOCTOR back then) he was younger than I am today! It never entered my mind as a young boy that a time would come when I would cherish a personal friendship with Dr. John, who is my only living mentor. (Dr. Jerry Falwell, Dr. Bob Jones, Jr., Dr. R.O. Woodworth, Dr. B.R. Lakin, Dr. G.B. Vick, and Dr. Tom Malone, Sr. are now all with the Lord.)

I also drove home with a growing sense of responsibility to BE a mentor. My own life has been shaped to a great extent in ministry by the aforementioned men. But the question now has become, “Who am I mentoring?” And I pass that question along to you – Who are YOU mentoring? Whose life is YOUR life helping to direct, influence, and shape for the glory of God?

Harold leaves tomorrow for England. He and I are partnering for the cause of Christ in England. The Rawlings Foundation has made a commitment to purchase a house and vehicle in England that will be made available for my use, as I continue to influence the youth culture in Great Britain.

BTW, do you pray? If so, would you pray that Lord would continue to guide, give His wisdom, and supply our needs as we move into the summer months? As of today, more than $15,500 of the needed $20,000 for a pilot youth camp (4-8 August) has been committed. I still need to secure the remaining $4,500 before the end of May. Please take a moment to pray right now that God would supply those funds.

And, as you pray, why not ask God to bring someone into your life that you can mentor and encourage and challenge to serve the Lord with their lives.

My own life has been made rich by great mentors … and Dr. John Rawlings has become a special, prized friend, in addition to being my mentor. Indeed, a rich man am I.