New IMB President

Posted on May 30, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Rankin Connecting

It was with elation and a degree of surprise that I welcomed the election of Dr. Tom Elliff as the new president of the International Mission Board.  Although confident that God was in ultimate charge of who my successor would be, the protracted search process did cause some anxiety and concern.

The debate was polarized on whether it should be an insider or outsider.  The consensus was that it should be someone with missionary experience and familiar with the vision and strategy of the IMB.  Others contended, with some merit, that it should be someone with prominent pastoral and denominational leadership to manage the challenges of credibility and support needed in the future.

The reality is that the president is a vision-caster and chief public relations officer.  The competent team of executive leadership and overseas field leaders will keep strategies focused and the momentum on track. An uncertain future of declining support, fragmentation among Southern Baptists and controversy over whether or not we will implement a Great Commission resurgence demand an experienced, passionate leader.

In Elliff the IMB and Southern Baptists have both an insider and outsider. Although his missionary experience overseas was brief, his ministry has been shaped by that missionary call.  No one has been so involved in traveling around the world and ministering to our missionaries over the years.  He has been training new missionaries in orientation and for four years served as Senior Vice-President for Spiritual Nurture and Church Relations at the IMB.

Few pastors throughout the convention would have such widespread respect.  His two years as president of the SBC, president of the Pastors’ Conference, and other roles were positions that served as a platform to call pastors, churches, missionaries and laymen to obedience to God’s word and a deeper, Spirit-filled walk.

In the years ahead I am confident the Lord will lead Tom Elliff with a new radical vision for completing our Great Commission task.  But we can rest assured the vision and strategy of the IMB is intact.  Elliff was a part of designing the “Vision for Global Advance” that shaped the current organization and strategy.  The board of trustees have endorsed this as the direction for the immediate future.  However, missionaries, staff and Southern Baptists can expect to be challenged to a new dimension of commitment to the task.

Early in my tenure I came to the realization that the mark of my leadership would not be the growth and impact made during my years of service, but whether or not the organization would continue to be effective in the future.  In our denominational polity a retiring entity head has no role in determining a successor.  It is gratifying to know that God apparently had ownership of the process, and prospects are bright for whatever role He has for Southern Baptists in reaching a lost world.

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