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Elliff imparts Seven Pillars for strong families at Southeastern

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–After he witnessed his parents divorce after 43 years of marriage, Tom Elliff could not bear to watch another marriage end in divorce. His search for answers led him to seven principles from Scripture that he now imparts to every couple he counsels before marriage, principles for fostering strong, secure and Christ-centered marriages.

Elliff, pastor of the Oklahoma City-area First Southern Baptist Church in Del City and chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s former Council on Family Life, brought his “Kingdom Families” conference to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary April 5. Elliff also is a former SBC president.

More than a thousand students and guests heard Elliff’s “Seven Pillars” approach to building strong families based on God’s Word that the SBC adopted in 2002 with its Kingdom Families initiative.

His Seven Pillars are: honoring God’s authority, respecting human life, exercising moral purity, serving the church, using time wisely, practicing biblical stewardship and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

When these principles are in place in a marriage, Elliff noted, “You couldn’t blow that marriage up with dynamite. If not, you couldn’t keep it together with Super Glue.”

If the results of Elliff’s ministry are any indication, the principles he shares from God’s Word are working. In his 30-plus years of premarital counseling, he knows of only three couples he has counseled who have ended their marriages in divorce.

The key, Elliff said, was his decision not to marry couples without making sure that they were believers and that they intended to live their lives according to the principles of God’s Word.

“I had to decide,” Elliff said, “if I was going to marry everybody that came down the road or follow God’s Word. I had to decide whether I would be part of the ceremony or invest myself in the couple’s life.”

For Elliff, the choice was clear, and the results have followed. He encouraged the seminary audience that they, too, could cultivate God-honoring marriages and families in their churches with the understanding that no marriage can be successful if the couple does not know Jesus as Savior.

“You can go to all the marriage conferences,” he said, “but as far as I’m concerned, you’re on a journey to nowhere with anybody [that you counsel] if they don’t know Jesus as Savior. It all begins with knowing Christ personally. When you’re born again, you have the very first, but most essential, element for a good marriage. Once you do, there’s no problem God can’t fix.”

Elliff’s seminar also covered such topics such as communication, forgiveness and proper decision-making, ingredients that must be in place if a marriage is to commend the Gospel. He challenged students to make honoring Christ the goal of their marriages and building strong churches the goal of their ministries.

“Your family can become the most winsome, telling testimony of what it means to know Jesus on your block,” Elliff said. “Your church can become known as a haven for people’s lives that have been lacerated by divorce. You grow strong churches by growing strong families.”

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  • Kyle Smith