Jimmy Meeks—a Baptist minister and career police officer—believes Jesus offers the answer to the problems of rampant suicide, divorce and PTSD among the ranks of law enforcement.
“Christ takes cold, dead hearts and gives a new heart,” said Meeks, a Southern Baptist minister for 47 years and police officer for 35 years.
Meeks wants to deliver that message to law enforcement officers through The Cornelius Project, a multi-faceted ministry that offers encouragement, support and resources to police.
‘The Lord has a heart for cops’
The ministry takes its name from Acts 10—the story of how Cornelius, a gentile centurion, became a follower of Christ through the witness of the Apostle Peter.
“Cornelius commanded 100 men. In effect, he was a patrol captain—the police officer of his day,” Meeks said. “And he is believed to be the first non-Jewish convert to Christianity.”
Cornelius exemplified traits law enforcement officers should emulate, Meeks noted. He was a devout, God-fearing man. He had a strong family life, and his family followed his example in devotion to God. Even though he was a gentile, he was generous toward the Jews—he served people across racial lines. And he prayed often, demonstrating a commitment to spiritual disciplines.
Meeks also noted Jesus commended the strong faith of a centurion who asked for his servant to be healed, and a centurion on duty at Jesus’ crucifixion confessed, “Truly, this was the Son of God.”
“The Lord has a heart for cops. They need to have a heart for the Lord,” Meeks said.
Resources to help officers
To help spread that word, Meeks created the Blue Life Support podcast, a blog, an app for mobile devices, an online video library and a website with a wide variety of resources on issues law enforcement officers face.
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The Blue Life Support blog includes some material with clearly partisan political overtones. However, most of the content on the website focuses on telling inspirational stories about police officers and providing resources on topics such as suicide prevention, family life, finances—and particularly developing and growing in a relationship with God.
A key area of focus involves helping officers learn verbal and nonverbal skills to de-escalate volatile situations, one of the areas Meeks also stresses in the training he offers to volunteers who provide safety and security at churches.
“Police officers are authority figures who bring a power and presence to every situation. That can either pour gasoline or water on the fire,” he said.
As officers learn the importance of verbal communication and listening skills, they also are encouraged to “practice it at home” and strengthen their family relationships, he said.
Desire to encourage police
The website includes a page where police officers can sign up to receive occasional texts and emails of encouragement.
“Last year, we had more officers die in the line of duty than any time since 1930,” he said, adding that 223 of the deaths were due to exposure to COVID-19. “And suicides among police are at about 200 a year.”
A relatively small part of the debilitating stress officers face is due to what they encounter “on the streets,” Meeks asserted.
“They live for that stuff. It’s just part of the job,” he said.
Rather, officers are more likely to want to give up because of a perceived lack of support—from city officials and from the general public, he insisted.
To encourage officers, Meeks visits police departments across the country. He has traveled to 40 states and recently completed a 6,200 mile “mission trip” to talk with officers at roll call.
“We want to en-courage officers—literally fill them with courage,” Meeks said, adding the real source of the courage and perseverance officers need is found in Christ.
“Get yourself a new heart. Christ gives the fortitude you need,” he said. “In Christ, we become a new creation who can withstand anything.”