Tom Elliff, nominated to be the next president of the International Mission Board, is a former megachurch pastor, president of the SBC, missionary, and IMB VP. I have no reason to think he will not do well.
Why the trustees took so long to settle on him is puzzling, but then these are people who like to do things behind closed doors. Perhaps there are compelling reasons. The IMB and other SBC entities would not be hurt by a revival of openness and transparency.
One cannot fail to note that he would be the first IMB president without extensive and long term experience on the mission field. I didn’t look back beyond the time of B. J. Cauthen, IMB President from 1954-1979, but in the past half century no president was picked who did not have a career on the field. Cauthen was in China and before the Communists. His successor, Keith Parks, was in Indonesia for years before succeeding Cauthen in 1980. Jerry Rankin was likewise in Indonesia for years before taking the helm of the IMB in 1992. Seems to me that not having the degree of saturation in overseas missions that previous IMB heads have had is a minus for Elliff, even though he was in Zimbabwe for half a term. I suppose this will be a question asked of him.
We all have to endure comparisons with our predecessors and I admit to having a great affection for Jerry Rankin. When Rankin spoke it wasn’t the kind of bluff and bombast that many SBCers seem to love. Rather, he was always impressively grave and serious in his commitment to reaching the world for Jesus. I found his appeal to young people to give their lives to overseas mission service to be very powerful and unwavering.
If a year ago you got a glimpse of last week's headline, "Former Megachurch Pastor, SBC President Nominated As IMB Head", you wouldn't have been a bit surprised. "Nothing new under the SBC sun," you would say. The only wrinkles are that he is 66 and that the trustees took so long about it.
But whatdoIknow? I'm just a plodding SBC pastor who sacrifices every year so that we can make our Lottie Moon goal.
If Elliff is approved by trustees, a lead pipe cinch, he certainly have my prayers and support.