Tom White: What Happened (and What Might We Learn)

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Tom White has been the face of Voice of the Martyrs for the past two decades. With Tom White as its head, the ministry of Voice of the Martyrs increased exponentially.  What will happen next to that ministry is in the Lord’s hands (which is the best place for it to be).

The tragic details of Tom White’s death are just now coming to light. I searched two days for answers after first learning of White’s death on Wednesday. His death was so sudden. It seemed something had to be wrong.

As it turns out, something was wrong indeed. Word is now leaking out from Bartlesville, OK (headquarters of Voice of the Martyrs) that Tom White was being investigated for inappropriate relations with a young girl.  The official blog page from Voice of the Martyrs has posted an announcement admitting there were allegations and acknowledging that those circumstances apparently led Tom White to take his own life.

I do not report this gladly. I have wept over the tragedy. Tom White has been a great influence in my life and has shaped to some degree my desire to know the persecuted church of Christ. I have fond memories of an evening I was able to spend with him in Cincinnati. Between the various courses of sushi, we spoke of the church in Iran, Pakistan, Vietnam, Laos, China, and Iraq. His knowledge of particular examples of persecution was unparalleled. Even more edifying was his ability to recount example after example of Christians being wise as serpents yet innocent as doves in the face of horrendous suffering. I told my wife that night that I hope to be like that some day—able to unfold global gospel encounters one after the other as an encouragement to all believers.

Sadly, I can now be reminded of an even more crucial lesson from Tom White. The evil one prowls like a lion seeking whom to devour. Sin is not limited to the down and out. Sin is capable of destroying any of us, and, certainly, the evil one desires for it to ruin pastors and leaders—striking the shepherd in hopes of causing the sheep to flee. It is an old strategy—but still a terribly effective one.

My response to all of this is not to doubt Voice of the Martyrs and most definitely NOT to doubt ministry to the persecuted church. My response is to remember that the real battle we must win is the personal battle over sin and death. Or, better put, we must remember the battle Christ has won over sin and over death and remain extremely close to Him. May the Lord bring His miraculous power to Tom White’s family, especially his wife and children. May the Lord remind us all to pray diligently for our pastors and leaders.