Monday, February 21, 2011

So, the IMB finally gets a leader - Tom Elliff

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.


Jonathan said...

Interesting. Elliff is 66 and is replacing a retiring president who is 68. On an unrelated note, it may take around 5 years for Kevin Ezell to build the argument that the NAMB is not viable as a separate mission sending agency.

Elliff will then be 71 and Ezell will be 53. The headline kinda writes itself, doesn't it?

William Thornton said...

Speculation about the two becoming one is what I read and hear. I cannot imagine that a half-billion dollar a year SBC entity would be manageable. I'm not hearing any persuasive arguments for it.

Plucking a megapastor from a church with a $10mil budget and a hundred employees and plopping them in a sprawling enterprise with thousands of employees and a half-bil budget? Too great a temptation.

Anonymous said...

Plodder, you can't see it because you look at the future in a rearview mirror - ex. the past! Won't work. If the Great Commission can be put in one verse (Acts !: 8), why can't our mission imperative be directed through one world-wide thrust with 2 divisions. It will get there, because a lack of funding will drive it. Get ready! The way things are is changing!

On Tom Eliff be the new President: a good retired pastor - but his election proves once again that the "resurgene" traded one "good ole boy" system for an another one. Just sayin'

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the arguments will be made, anonymous, and I will listen. I will also try and make a case against it. A pretty good argument against it is that IMB should not be contaminated with the culture that led to the messes NAMB has manufactured. I'd at least expect NAMB to demonstrate a debacle-free decade.


Anonymous said...

Contamination invades with self-serving leaders who come and go. I wouldn't hold my breath on a debacle-free decade either with NAMB or IMB. Neither agency head appears to be a mission strategist which is very worrisome. We are in for some interesting years . . . perhaps months.