Bob Whitesel was awarded the “Donald A. McGavran Award for Outstanding Leadership in Church Growth” at the President’s Banquet at the American Society for Church Growth’s (now the Great Commission Research Network) annual meeting, hosted by Biola University, Nov. 2007.
“I am highly honored,” said Whitesel, “for this is the highest honor in my profession of church growth and consultation. Previous recipients have included church growth luminaries such as Lyle Schaller, Win Arn, C. Peter Wagner, Elmer Towns, Eddie Gibbs, George Hunter III and Kent Hunter.
(Picture of Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay awarded the Donald A. McGavran Award with previous recipients, from left to right: Dr. George G. Hunter III; Dr. Bob Logan; Dr. Bob Whitesel; Dr. Thom Rainer; Dr. Ray Ellis; Dr. Waldo Werning; Dr. Carl George; Dr. Charles “Chip” Arn; Dr. Gary McIntosh)
“In addition,” continued Whitesel, “the next morning I had the serendipitous honor of celebrating this honor with our IWU President, Dr. Henry Smith, as we accidentally ran into each other. Dr. Smith as a dignitary, was attending the inauguration of Biola University’s new president, while I was attending the ASCG annual meeting at the same university. Dr. Elmer Towns, a former recipient of the Donald R. McGavran award himself, joined me in conversation with Dr. Smith.
Whitesel concluded, “I am wonderfully thankful for my primary support network of my wife and our four daughters. Yet thanks most of all go to my Lord Jesus, who has made His Great Commission my passion and equipping His church leaders my fervor.”
About the McGavran Award
When warranted “The Donald A. McGavran Award for Outstanding Leadership in Great Commission Research” is bestowed at the Annual Conference’s President’s Banquet to a person who has exemplified scholarship, intellect and leadership in the research and dissemination of the principles of effective disciple-making as originally developed by Donald A. McGavran.
Donald Anderson McGavran (1897–1990) was the founder of the School of World Mission and Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena California. A third generation missionary in India, McGavran spent much of his life trying to identify and overcome social barriers to Christian conversion.
McGavran’s magnum opus, Understanding Church Growth, was voted by Christianity Today magazine as the second most influential book in the 20th century. The book substantially changed the methods by which missionaries identify and prioritize groups of persons for missionary work, and stimulated the birth of the Church Growth Movement.
McGavran developed his church growth principles after rejecting the popular view that mission was “philanthropy, education, medicine, famine relief, evangelism, and world friendship’ and become convinced that good deeds – while necessary – ‘must never replace the essential task of mission: discipling the peoples of the earth”. (Donald A. McGavran, ‘My Pilgrimage in Mission’, International Bulletin of Missionary Research 10, no.2 (April 1986): 53-58, p. 54.)
The Donald McGavran Leadership Award was originally conceived by C. Peter Wagner in 1988, to encourage and affirm outstanding contributions to the field of effective evangelism. McGavran, still living at the time, selected the first recipient—Dr. Win Arn. Since then, the Great Commission Research Network has selected individuals to receive this noteworthy award.