by Kathryn McDonald
“God is faithful. We can trust Him.”
These words, spoken by Dr. Thomas White in many chapel messages to the student body of Cedarville University, resonate with his goal to see students leave Cedarville equipped with the tools they need to flourish. It starts with this foundational truth: God is faithful.
This academic year marks the 10th anniversary of White’s service as President of Cedarville University. His time here has been filled with many opportunities to rejoice as he sees it expand and grow.
Of all the unexpected blessings in his life, White doubts that he could have anticipated the blessing of serving as President of a University. Looking back on the first steps that he took in faith, White still isn’t sure what he had expected before agreeing to take the role of president of Cedarville.
“I don’t know that I knew what the joys of the position would be,” White said. “I just knew that this was the next assignment from the Lord.”
Even though the truth was not new for White, his confidence in it only grew as he continued working in faith. The other side of God’s faithfulness that White points out is that even though we are unfaithful followers God is still faithful.
“I don’t like when we try to pretend like we’re not sinful, I like authenticity where we acknowledge with humility that all of us have issues and we seek to live better for Christ,” White said. “Let’s lock arms and walk through life together. And when we stumble, let’s stumble forward, let’s not fall backward. Let’s keep stumbling forward so that we have a long walk in the same direction toward godliness.”
White is confident that the faithful ministry that he gets to participate in at Cedarville will have a lasting impact on the lives of students in the many years to come. God blesses the faithfulness of his servants even when the fruit comes long after they do the hard work of sowing and watering.
“How many Old Testament prophets had to serve faithfully and never got to see the fruits of their labor?” White asked.
The greatest joys White has in his ministry to students are when he sees them take God’s faithfulness to heart as they faithfully serve the Lord with their lives. Seeing students’ lives change even beyond their 1000 days is one of the happiest processes to witness. White shares that he thinks the soul-changing impact Cedarville has will continue to be revealed as time unfolds. White’s goal for students is to see them equipped in their 1000 days to grow into the kinds of people who do kingdom work with enthusiasm for the rest of their lives beyond Cedarville.
Dr. Jon Wood serves as Vice President for Student Life and Christian Ministries and Assistant Professor of Theological Studies and has been working with White for the past 18 years. As the years passed, Wood saw White’s ministry impact the lives of others in ways that are hard to quantify.
“Perhaps one of the most significant things Dr. White does is cultivate, equip and motivate the people that students interact with so regularly.” Wood said. “His influence works from behind the scenes. He really seeks to equip the rest of us to be effective.”
White’s experience with teachers in his own life has taught him that faculty members can make huge differences in students’ lives. So he makes it a clear priority of Cedarville to hire faculty who are willing to spend their time personally investing in students.
Not only is it important for Cedarville to hire faculty who will lead the students well, but White also has a responsibility to be an example of leadership to those faculty and staff. Having worked with Dr. White for almost two decades, Wood points to Joshua 1:6-9 as a passage that characterizes his leadership.
“The foundation for being strong and courageous is the word of God.” Wood said. “He seeks to build upon the foundation of the word of God which then allows, equips, and empowers him to be strong and courageous as a leader of the university. I don’t think our community can fully grasp how much pressure and how intense the university president role is, I think the way he approaches those trials is to trust God first and foremost. The pressure and the stress drive him to dependence on God.”
White recalls how faithful God has been to him and the university in the midst of challenging times.
“Everything we’ve needed all along the way, the Lord has just provided,” White said. “In the nick of time, He comes through with what we need.”
While this is certainly true of God’s provision for Cedarville University over the years, White had his share of unmistakably divine moments of provision and answered prayer. One of the biggest moments in White’s life was his interview for the position of president, and he recalls the encouragement that the Holy Spirit gave him that gave him the resolve to go through with it.
The day of the big interview arrived and White was having trouble focusing during his Bible time before heading to the interview. He had felt God’s call to ministry at Cedarville, but was wondering if this position was really the next step for him. As he sat on the hotel bed, White felt his phone vibrate on the table next to him. He was floored by what he read in a text message from his wife. It was Joshua 1:8-9.
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Later, when White asked his wife why she sent the text, she explained that she had wanted to send it the night before, but felt like it wasn’t the right time. The following morning, she felt like the Spirit was asking her to text him right then.
Fast forward to the preparations of White’s inauguration ceremony. As speakers were asked to come and participate in this occasion, again God used this scripture to show White that this was the place he was needed. Dr. James Jeremiah even used this verse as a part of his message during the address given during White’s inauguration.
“I feel like what’s happened at Cedarville is just completely a result of all of the team of incredible men and women trying to be faithful to the Lord, strong and courageous, staying in the Word not departing from it, and the Lord’s been faithful to bless,” White said. “And He’s not obligated to keep it going, but that’s what He’s done.”
As Cedarville celebrates 10 years with Dr. White as university president, there is much to be thankful for. His goals for the university and heart for the individuals that God brings to Cedarville are special. His ultimate goal is to serve in ways that will lead to God working in students’ lives so that they know the Love of God and experience the full blessing that he has for them.
Kathryn McDonald is a senior Psychology major and writer for the Campus News section of Cedars. You can probably catch her writing a letter to a friend in the library or drinking coffee from her favorite mug.