Tom Elliff
Oklahoma City, OK

After pastoring for forty-two years, Tom Elliff served the International Mission Board, first as Senior Vice President for Spiritual Nurture and Church Relations from 2005-2009, then as President from 2011-2014. Tom served pastorates in Arkansas, Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma and as an IMB missionary in Zimbabwe. Tom also served as president of the SBC Pastor's Conference and two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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Bye Babe…and Thanks!

By on November 24, 2014

Last Saturday, Jeannie and I cradled our Beagle, Babe,  in our arms and said goodbye to our “little big heart” and faithful companion of fifteen years.  Even Babe’s big heart was no match for the illness that had  invaded her small body during the past  months. No need for details here, but yes, grown men cry. The last time we went through this experience our vet sent us a sympathy card. I wrote him back and told him that, for what he’d charged me over the years, I deserved free grief counseling.

Babe was a lover and a  teacher. Some of you may have read, or heard of lessons I’ve learned from Babe over the years. So as a tribute, I thought I’d share the one lesson I count as the most valuable;  a hard lesson, but the one Babe (and the Lord) knew I most needed  to learn.

It happened in the early days in my role as IMB president. After a night of fitful sleep, I arose early, dressed appropriately and decided to head down to our Monument Avenue headquarters.  I wanted to spend time  in the prayer room we’d fashioned as part of my office.

Of course, before leaving our new neighborhood it was important for me to take Babe on her “morning walk.” Wanting to be a good citizen, I tucked a plastic sack in the pocket of my slacks. (Need I say more?). So there I was, dutifully following behind our dog who was tugging at the leash, eager to explore her new surroundings. At least that was part of the agenda.

“This is a fine how do you do,” I mused, as I stooped to the ground, sack in hand. “Here I am, president of IMB, the world’s major evangelical mission organization, picking up after a dog.” I will always believe the next conversation was not only audible, but loud enough to awaken my neighbors.

“Oh quit complaining,” said the Lord. It sounded like He was laughing. “You’re not such a big shot! I am God! Yet I stooped to earth for you! And I’ve been picking up after you for years!

I literally stopped, stood up and looked around to see if anyone else was in ear shot. And  it was as a humbled man that I fell on my knees at the altar in my prayer room that morning. I knew I had experienced an unusual encounter  with the Lord. I would never see the Lord, IMB, or my role, in the same light again. It was exactly the lesson I needed at that very point in my life, and a lesson I hope never to forget.

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus Who, although in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, So that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:5-10).

Thank you Jesus! (And thank you, Babe).

Rejoice evermore!

Tom Elliff

2 Tim 1:12

 

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  • cbtolosa

    Thank you for a very timely reminder to me as I care for my wife as we are in NC on “medical leave” from IMB.  The LORD has already “thumped” me on the head to remind me that those Deaf leaders whom I’ve served in and ministered to in South America are more than able to minister and serve without me having to be there to be their “leader”.