DALLAS (BP)–Before outlining his vision of expecting the International Mission Board to be biblical, balanced and bold, newly elected IMB President Tom Elliff leaned over and kissed his wife Jeannie before a receptive audience of trustees, staff and guests.
“There’s a reason our kids say they want to love their spouses like I love mine,” he said, paying tribute to his partner of 44 years before addressing the 76 trustees who unanimously elected him March 16 as the 11th president of Southern Baptists’ overseas mission board.
Elliff thanked both Clyde Meador, who served as IMB interim president in addition to his responsibility as executive vice president, and Jerry Rankin, who retired in July 2010 after 17 years as IMB president.
Elliff said Southern Baptists, in a world rocked by natural disasters, physical challenges and financial worries, “ought to constitute a veritable furnace of intercessory prayer.”
“I’m grateful for the manner in which they have determined to provide ministry in Japan based on a longstanding relationship with Japanese Baptists,” Elliff noted in reference to IMB missionaries and staff.
Elliff described his theology of missions that will entail three questions before taking any action. In asking first whether an action is biblical, Elliff said that priority will keep the IMB from being swept away in tides of either sentimentalism or pragmatism.
“Our doctrines, our beliefs have come to us at too high a price for us to ignore asking this question,” Elliff said, announcing his intention to recommend a candidate at the next trustee meeting to fill the vice presidential position he vacated two years ago.
The nominee, Elliff said, “will be someone of noted theological expertise, who passionately loves missions and missionaries, who will work closely and carry the banner for God’s Word and our staff and team on the field, and reach out to our schools and seminaries.”
“We’re the International Mission Board, but we don’t have the corner on strategy,” Elliff said, urging an appreciation for strategy developed by Southern Baptist seminaries and local churches.
Secondly, Elliff said he will ask whether an action is balanced, citing the need to include evangelism, discipleship and church planting in pursuit of the Great Commission.
Thirdly, Elliff said, “There is no way the Great Commission can be obeyed without an incredibly bold, sacrificial, selfless lifestyle,” explaining his focus in asking whether an action is bold.
“The truth is this is a whole different world than it was 18 months ago when you resigned,” Elliff said, looking to Rankin. “The urgency of the hour requires a fresh kind of boldness on our part.”
Elliff described a plan that meshed with a desire of SBC President Bryant Wright to see local churches adopt the remaining 3,800 unengaged unreached people groups. “The simple truth behind the Cooperative Program,” Elliff said, “is that we can do things together better than we can alone.”
Pleased that the IMB already has developed all the pieces necessary to fully engaged all unreached people groups, Elliff acknowledged, “Some assembly is required,” asking churches to come on board to embrace the remaining groups by 2012.
“It’s by God’s grace we have 5,000 missionaries on the field,” Elliff said, adding, “It also is going to require local churches — your church becoming burdened for the unengaged and unreached of this world, signing on, creating biblical partnerships.”
Borrowing what he called an Oklahoma phrase, Elliff said, “Let’s cowboy up and do this thing. Your missionaries are anxious for you to do this.”
Elliff made a personal appeal for prayer in seven specific areas, prompting trustees to jot down the list to remember their commitment to uplift the new leader. He and his wife requested:
— “that there would be in our hearts a looming awareness of the fact that we are ambassadors for Christ and must act in a way that’s consistent with our Lord, but act with confidence.”
— “a pure heart,” citing David’s attitude in Psalm 24.
— the exercise of spiritual work in the fullness of the Holy Spirit “so the life of Christ can be manifested through us.”
— exhibit the gifts and graces of the Spirit, citing Galatians 5 and Isaiah 11:2.
— “that never would we unwittingly place in the hands of the adversary something that he might use to mock our Savior.”
— “that God would protect our families.”
— “that God would keep us faithful to the vision.”
“There’s no better atmosphere than with the International Mission Board,” Elliff said, praising the zeal for Christ and sense of urgency to carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
Tammi Reed Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.