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IMB resignation a step of faith ‘out of the boat,’ White says

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Citing a clear call from God to “get out of the boat and walk on the water,” John White has resigned as executive vice president of the International Mission Board, effective June 30, after almost 20 years of service with the missions agency.

In a June 25 chapel service, White told IMB staff members about his difficult decision to obey God and leave the IMB without knowing exactly what God has in store for him next.

“It’s been several months that we’ve been struggling with this decision and thinking through it and wondering what it might mean for us,” White said. “Then, on a recent trip in April, I was really struggling, and I said, ‘God if I missed what you were really saying to me — which is possible — would you please tell me again, because I really want to know what you are trying to say to me.’

“And He said very clearly — not in an audible voice in any way — He said very clearly, ‘John, I want you to leave the board.’ And I said, ‘OK, what am I going to do?’ And He said, ‘I’m not going to tell you that until you leave.’

“I didn’t really like that,” White said. “That’s not how He had worked in my life in the past, and I sort of like to have things in order and I like to know what’s going to be happening. That was hard.”

Taking as their watchword Hebrews 11:8 — “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out … not knowing where he was going.” — White and his wife, Trudy, “have no plan B, only plan A, and that’s to do what He asks me to do,” White said.


“Waiting on the Lord is a confident, disciplined, expectant, active and sometimes painful clinging to God.”

White recalled reading the book, “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat,” by John Ortburg, and that one chapter in particular, “Learning to Wait,” caught his attention.

“I left it on the shelf for a while. I said, ‘I don’t want to read that. I already know what that chapter is going to say. I don’t want to hear it,'” White said.

“But one of the quotes in that chapter says: ‘Let’s say you decide to get out of the boat. You trust God. You take a step of faith. You courageously choose to leave a comfortable job, to devote yourself to God’s calling. You will use a gift you believe God has given you, even though you are scared to death. You decide to trust God and get out of the boat. What happens next?’

“Well, I don’t know. That’s where I am. I’m waiting to see what happens next,” White said. “What I do know is that God doesn’t always work at our frantic pace. He works on His time schedule.”


The Whites have always been careful to obey God even when they didn’t entirely understand all His reasons, said IMB President Jerry Rankin.

“John and Trudy have always been faithful to follow God’s will,” he said. “The decision God has led them to make at this time is not unlike when He led them from a very promising business career with Chik-Fil-A, to put it all on the shelf to follow God’s leadership to the mission field.

“We don’t always understand why and how God leads at times, but we always must be obedient, in confidence and faith trusting God when it doesn’t make sense to us personally,” he said. “But I know and respect John and his walk with the Lord — and his desire above all else to be faithful and obedient to God’s leadership.”

White brought a unique combination of skills and experience to his role as executive vice president, Rankin said.

“It will be difficult to bring closure to a role that John White has had with us for almost 20 years,” he said. “All of us have gotten to know him over these years in a very special way.

“We know his unique business skills, his master’s in business administration, law degree, seminary studies and missionary service that has equipped him so well for his leadership role and relating to all of us. The asset he has been was not only in the functioning and administration of our board but as a minister and encouragement and partner with each of us at every level in our mission task.”


White is a graduate of Samford University in his native Birmingham, Ala. He worked as a regional field adviser and assistant to the president of the Chick-Fil-A food corporation in Atlanta before he and his wife were appointed as missionaries to Brazil in 1983.

He served as treasurer for the organization of Southern Baptist missionaries in Brazil before coming to IMB headquarters as assistant vice president for overseas operations in 1995. He became the IMB’s executive vice president in 1996 after the retirement of Don Kammerdiener.

“Replacing Don Kammerdiener after 40 years of service with the board was such a challenge,” Rankin said. “It was just a gift of God that someone like John would be available to step into such a unique role.

“How grateful we are for his support and partnership and service these past 20 years.”

Clyde Meador, associate vice president of general administration in the IMB’s Office of Overseas Operations has been asked to assume the responsibilities of interim executive vice president until a replacement for White is selected.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: JOHN AND TRUDY WHITE.

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  • Mark Kelly