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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By on May 11, 2016

Chisel-head! Yep, that’s the name that sticks in my two brother’s minds when they think of me! It didn’t help when my father not only agreed with them but also assured that the name would remain my moniker through the years. You see, Dad was our family’s self-taught barber and after every homegrown haircut, my head looked like the top of a chisel beaten down by a mallet. You’ve got the picture, I’m sure.

Our western culture doesn’t make as much of names as do many others. In many cultures, a person’s name is closely associated with his or her character, much as it was during Bible times. And among some people groups there is actually a reluctance to share one’s name with a stranger because to do so is tantamount to giving away a part of yourself.

Everyone, however, seems to understand what it means to have a “good name.” I remember a great aunt of mine turning to me from the kitchen sink, wiping her hands on her apron, and saying sternly, “Your granddad has a good name in this community. Now, don’t you mess it up!” Since she had carried a pistol much of her life and could stand on her head and do “bicycle” exercises though still in her eighties, I decided to obey my great aunt. (I should probably add at this point that my family tree has several distinct branches).

“A good name is to be more desired than great wealth,” we read in Proverbs 22:1. That’s something worth meditating upon, especially during a year filled with people who are going out of their way to make a name for themselves. It would be wise to remember that a good name, like a good man or woman’s character takes years to develop…and only seconds to destroy. Maintaining a good name takes a lifetime of dedication and diligent attention. It requires deliberate and continual choices! (Some translations, in fact, render this “A good name is to be chosen…”). You don’t just “up and have a good name,” not even in election years.

There are a lot of folks with “Arnold” as their last name. But I recall only one “Arnold” with the first name “Benedict.” Remember him? Nobody wanted his name after he spoiled it! On the other hand, heroes (both in our Nation and in our Faith) have folks named after them on a regular basis. I tend to think that we’d all like to be governed by leaders who each have “a good name.” We do have some choice in the matter, after all.

And what definition are you giving to your name? That’s also question of great importance. At least the Lord seems to think so.

Do you have a good name?

Rejoice evermore!

2 Tim 1:12

  • Cindy Brooks

    Thank you for this great reminder, Brother Tom.
    I’m always challenged by your writings.

  • Deb Mills

    Good word, Tom. Thanks always for reminding us of the things that matter.