Richmond, Va.—Clyde Meador, who retires May 13 from the International Mission Board, is known—along with his wife Elaine—among missionary teams for steady, unflappable leadership. Yet 41 years of service, with Clyde most recently serving as executive advisor to IMB’s president, testify to the Meadors’ simple steps of obedience even more than to their strategic insights and leadership.
“When you look at Clyde’s and Elaine’s lives, it’s step-by-step obedience in the same direction towards the Father’s will for their lives,” said John Brady, vice president for Global Engagement.
Clyde has worked closely with three IMB presidents as a top advisor and vice president, and even as the mission organization’s interim president from August 2010 to March 2011.
“When I first stepped into my role as president of the IMB, the first thing I did was ask Clyde to continue in leadership, for I could not imagine taking this responsibility without his leadership alongside me,” David Platt said.
Platt said he, like others within IMB, valued Clyde’s steady nature and wisdom. “His steadiness has been an anchor for the IMB during the ups and downs, trials and challenges that the IMB has experienced over the previous four decades.”
The Meadors began their careers with IMB in 1974 when they were appointed as missionaries to Indonesia. For the next 14 years, the couple served in a range of roles, with Clyde starting as a church planter in Medan, then training pastors and lay leaders in Semarang and later Purwokerto. In 1987 he became the mission administrator in Jakarta.
In 1989 Clyde took on leadership of the Southern Asia and Pacific Itinerant Mission. Former IMB President Jerry Rankin served as the Meadors’ area director at the time and noted that Clyde “had sound theology and was a strategic thinker. You saw this in how he led the itinerant missionary teams.”
The itinerant approach was a creative innovation in a rapidly changing world, Rankin said. More than a decade before mission strategists had introduced concepts like creative access, Clyde and Elaine were leading roving teams of missionaries who moved in and out of South Asian countries on training circuits for local pastors and lay leaders.
Clyde and Elaine moved from leading the itinerant teams in the early ’90s to leading missionary teams across the South Asia, Pacific and Oceania regions as an associate director and then an area director.
Platt said Clyde’s deep relationship with Christ was the foundation for his long tenure of leadership. “His personal relationship with Christ is the spring from which everything in his life and leadership flows. He loves God, fears God, and lives to glorify God.”
Former IMB President Tom Elliff, who led the organization from 2011 to 2014, said there is an easy, trusting way about Clyde and Elaine.
“It is the authentic nature of Clyde’s and Elaine’s hearts that stands out most clearly to me,” Elliff said. “You can trust they will do what they say they will do. If they say that they are going to pray for you, they will. When they say that you are their friend, you are their friend. They remember their commitments. They don’t take these things lightly.”
Rankin, who worked with Clyde and Elaine for much of their mission careers, said the couple’s success as leaders also resided in their willingness to follow.
“You cannot be an effective leader without being an effective follower,” noted Rankin, whose 17-year presidency began in 1993 and ended with retirement in 2010. “Clyde is a leader, but he is also happy to work in that servant role. He is able to enjoy fulfillment and joy in knowing that he is contributing to making things happen. He didn’t seek the credit. He doesn’t need that.”
In 1998, Rankin asked Clyde to take on leadership of a massive new area which included all IMB missionary teams working in Central and Southern Asia. This followed Rankin’s decision in 1997 to rework the IMB’s structure and focus, an initiative called New Directions.
“New Directions launched a redeployment of our mission force to focus on engagement, to change our ethos to one of church planting, and to understand people groups,” Rankin said. “Clyde’s fingerprints are all over that.”
In 2001 Rankin asked the Meadors to move to Richmond and join the office of the president as part of Rankin’s leadership team. “I had a vision for where I knew we needed to go,” he said, “but it was people like Clyde and Elaine, with their humble leadership, that helped make it happen.”
Elliff noted, “Clyde is one of the most humble people you will ever be around,” he said. “He is not ignorant of what his talents are—nor is anyone else who works with him—but he never seeks to use those to lord it over anybody.
“Clyde was so good in working with me, with Jerry (Rankin) and, of late, with David (Platt),” Elliff said. “He would humbly come along behind and say, ‘You have the plan. Let’s talk about how I can help implement that plan.’ Not everybody is willing to do that, but Clyde could always see the big picture because, for him, it’s about the Kingdom.”