New IMB leader makes bold challenge
    March 28 2011 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

    The new president of the International Mission Board (IMB) says it’s time to “cowboy up” to the task of reaching the nations.

    Tom Elliff, unanimously (76-0) approved March 16, plans to challenge Southern Baptists at its annual convention in Phoenix in June to prayerfully and boldly reach the unreached and unengaged people groups of the world.

    “I think it is a noble challenge,” said Milton Hollifield, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). “It will only be through the power of God that we will be able to accomplish this.”

    Hollifield said Elliff’s experience as a former missionary and IMB vice president as well as his years pastoring churches will be a great help to those he will be serving. “He is a person who has a great heart for getting the gospel to the nations, and he is also a person who has great love and appreciation for the missionaries who serve as the Southern Baptist force,” Hollifield said. “I believe he will do all he can to provide the missionaries with the resources they need to get the gospel to the nations.”

    Elliff was initially not a candidate for IMB’s top spot. He actually had made recommendations but the search committee “did not have peace as a committee,” on any of the prospects, said Robert Jackson, pastor of Peninsula Baptist Church in Mooresville.

    IMB photo

    IMB president Tom Elliff, center, celebrates with IMB trustee chairman Jimmy Pritchard, right, and Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee president Frank Page following the appointment of 67 new missionaries March 16 at First Baptist Church in Dallas. See Video.

    “Throughout our search process we talked to some mighty fine people,” Jackson said, but none seemed to unify the group.

    One of the committee members suggested Elliff’s name later in the process.

    Jackson, who is on his second term as an IMB board member, said his confirmation came when the committee wanted to pray for the Elliffs.

    “They both knelt down,” Jackson said.

    “It was very clear that they were not strangers to that form of prayer.”

    Jackson was one of three North Carolina Baptists to serve on the 15-person search committee.

    Jimmy Prichard, chairman of the board and search committee as well as pastor of First Baptist Church in Forney, Texas, said the search committee received about 80 names of candidates from about 300 individuals. Four men were interviewed more than once.

    But on a Dec. 13 conference call one member mentioned Elliff’s name and within the next five minutes, Prichard said there was a sense that God spoke.

    “At that moment there was a peace that came over every one of us,” Prichard said.

    Elliff claims the board ruined his Christmas with their call asking him to consider, but he and his wife, Jean, approached the matter prayerfully.

    “We prayed about whether to pray about it,” Elliff said.

    Elliff met with the search committee Jan. 14 but even with a unanimous secret ballot vote, he and Jean had questions about whether God was calling them to serve.

    Elliff, 67, is a long-time Oklahoma pastor, former missionary, denominational leader as well as author and speaker.

    Clyde Meador, an IMB vice president, had been serving as interim president since Jerry Ranking retired last year.

    At age 67, Elliff’s age has raised some questions about the longevity of his presidency.

    “It’s unfortunate that some people’s vision for their lives stop at 65,” Elliff said.

    “I’ve hardly started. I have work to do.

    “When studying the Bible the issue was never age. It’s always obedience.”

    Elliff said the IMB needs to be good stewards of what Southern Baptists have given.

    “The biggest issue is we need … to be doing God’s work God’s way,” he said.

    A firm believer in the Cooperative Program, Elliff stressed that Southern Baptists can do better to serve God collectively than as individuals or churches.

    Making a commitment

    The effort to reach the unreached will take “major adjustments to the real commitment of Southern Baptist people to prayerfully and financially support reaching the unreached peoples,” Hollifield said. This effort will take a significant shift — a “radical, sacrificial obedience” — Hollifield stressed, of time, resources, etc., but he wants “to have the joy of being a part in what God is doing.”

    Jackson said his church had not taken on this challenge before but plans to prayerfully approach adopting a people group in the coming year.

    To find out more about adopting a people group, visit There are also other stories about Elliff.

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    3/28/2011 8:24:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

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