New IMB president previews strategy and prayer priorities

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 IMB 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 as the 11th president of Southern Baptists’ overseas mission board.

Elliff thanked both interim president Clyde Meador who held the post for over eight months in addition to his responsibility as executive vice president and former IMB president Jerry Rankin whose 17-year tenure ended in July of 2010. Meador was honored by the board for his additional service and continued ministry with a $5,000 gift of appreciation.

“Southern Baptists ought to constitute a veritable furnace of intercessory prayer,” Elliff said, referring to the variety of natural disasters, physical challenges and financial worries rocking the world. “I’m grateful for the manner in which they have determined to provide ministry in Japan based on a long-standing relationship with Japanese Baptists,” Elliff said in reference to IMB staff and missionaries.

Elliff described his theology of missions which will prompt him to ask 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 plan to recommend a candidate at the next meeting to fill the vice presidential position he vacated two years ago. “It 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 among our staff and team on the field, and reach out to our schools and seminaries,” he explained.

“We’re the International Mission Board, but we don’t have the corner on mission 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 insistence on asking whether an action is bold.

“The truth is, with all due respect, this is a whole different world than it was 18 months ago when you resigned,” Elliff said, looking to his predecessor, Jerry Rankin, while also paying tribute to him as one of the great men of faith on whose shoulders he stands. “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” is “that we can do things together better than we can alone.”

Pleased that the IMB has already developed all the pieces necessary to fully engaged all UPGs, 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 5000 missionaries around the world,” Elliff said, adding, “It also going to require local churches–your church becoming burdened for the unengaged and unreached of this world, signing on, creatingviable partnerships.”

Borrowing what he called an Oklahoma phrase, Elliff said, “Let’s cowboy up and do this thing,” he said, adding, “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 Gal. 5 and Isa. 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 wouldprotect our families;”and finally,
  • “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.

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