In a few days the International Mission Board (IMB) will receive the nomination of Oklahoma’s Tom Elliff as its next president. His nomination comes after many months and multiple rumors as to who would be chosen to lead the world’s largest evangelical denomination’s mission board. I believe it is a wise and reasoned choice.
Elliff’s credentials, experience and spiritual maturity make him a creditable and acceptable choice. He has pastored significant churches in Oklahoma—Tulsa, Eastwood and Del City, First Southern. He has served as a missionary in Africa and as a vice president of the IMB. In his role at the IMB, he trained missionaries now serving around the world and helped prepare them spiritually and doctrinally for the task before them. Elliff served two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention and did so with distinction. He is a gifted and passionate preacher of the Word.
I have known Tom and his wife, Jeannie, for more than three decades. In fact, it was my privilege to be his mother’s pastor for a short time before her death. Tom and Jeannie are just good folks, who have a fervent personal walk with Christ. Together they have poured out their lives to serve the church and its mission to reach the nations with the Gospel. Their children are a reflection of a deep commitment to the work of Christ instilled in them by these two godly parents.
Tom is the kind of leader who leaves you stronger and better for having walked beside him. You always get the impression he is for you. He has a pastor’s heart. When he preaches, you are challenged to be more than you were. He brings you into the presence of God. His zeal for a lost world has been at the forefront of the churches he has served as pastor.
I am pleased because Tom is committed to our Southern Baptist way of cooperation and missions. He has seen the power of cooperative giving and knows we can do more together than individually. He knows the heart and commitment of Southern Baptists to missions, and I am assured he will stir our passion to reach the nations. He will rival Baker James Cauthen in his ability to capture hearts for the mission to the world.
Some have pointed to his age and wondered why a younger person was not chosen. Frankly, 67 looks younger to me every day! I am glad we will have a seasoned leader for the next few years. Southern Baptists are in a period of uncertainty. Numerous voices are trying to steer us in multiple directions. We need a vigorous man who is mature and solid to lead the crown jewel of our cooperative work together. His will be a voice of reason while not ignoring younger voices who bring fresh ideas to the table. Tom will serve with personal knowledge of the people he leads. He has been where they are and understands the unique challenges of serving on the mission field.
When all his qualifications are set before us, none is more important than his deep, spiritual faith and walk with Christ. I have sat down with Tom on many occasions to discuss local church ministry, missions, denominational issues and our common faith. I have always walked away knowing I had been in the presence of a man who had just been with the Lord. His heart and life declare his commitment to personal spiritual development. He is a man of great faith in a Great God.
I give thanks to God for His choice of Tom Elliff as our next president of the International Mission Board. We will be in good hands. It will be a great privilege to work with him and beside him. I call all Oklahoma Baptists to give Tom and Jeannie a permanent place on our prayer list.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.