Named in honor of a legendary Southern Baptist pastor and denominational statesman, the first Herschel H. Hobbs Award for Distinguished Denominational Service was presented to Dr. Tom Elliff by OBU president David Whitlock on Tuesday, June 14, during the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, Ariz.
Elliff is president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. He previously served as the International Mission Board's senior vice president for spiritual nurture and church relations. In addition to his work with the IMB, Tom served as a pastor for 42 years, including serving as pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Del City from 1985-2005.
The award is named to honor the noteworthy Southern Baptist denominational service of Dr. Herschel H. Hobbs, a prolific author, preacher and radio program host. Hobbs was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City from 1949-72. He died in 1995.
"Dr. Tom Elliff personifies the highest ideals in Southern Baptist ministry," Dr. Whitlock said. "He is a passionate servant-leader who inspires others to follow his example in evangelism and discipleship. Throughout his career, he has tied vibrant local church ministry to global missions engagement. Through his leadership with the International Mission Board, he is using those proven gifts and abilities to guide our denomination to even greater effectiveness as we take the Gospel to people around the world.
"We are honored to present Dr. Elliff with the first Hobbs Award. He is carrying on Dr. Hobbs' legacy of denominational statesmanship."
Elliff served as the president of the SBC Pastors Conference and two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He was a member of the OBU Board of Trustees from 1980-81 and 2002-06, and two of his daughters are OBU graduates.
Born in Paris, Texas, Elliff is a third-generation Southern Baptist pastor. A graduate of Ouachita Baptist University, he earned a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and a doctor of ministry degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Elliff and his wife, Jeannie, have four children and 25 grandchildren. The Elliffs served as IMB missionaries to Zimbabwe in the early 1980s. He is the founder of Living in the Word Publications, a writing and speaking ministry focused on the ongoing necessity of spiritual awakening. He is the author of several books about prayer, spiritual awakening and family life.
"For many in the Southern Baptist Convention, the name of Herschel Hobbs conveys the concept of local church leadership combined with global influence," said Dr. Mark McClellan, dean of OBU's Herschel H. Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry. "Dr. Tom Elliff has followed in that model, embracing the local church while also leading Southern Baptists on the global stage. Both of these great leaders have held fast to the simple truth that our convention can do more working together than working separately. It is why the SBC exists. Dr. Elliff operates from that conviction as he leads our International Mission Board, and we are excited to continue OBU's work with the IMB as our students engage a diverse world for Christ."
Elliff said he was thrilled to receive the honor, which will be presented annually during the convention. The award was denoted by a framed bison art by Harold Holden with an inscription stating: Oklahoma Baptist University Herschel H. Hobbs Award for Distinguished Denominational Service presented to Dr. Tom Elliff for outstanding servant leadership to the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Also indicating the significance of the award is the recent vote by the OBU Board of Trustees to establish the Herschel H. Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry. The college incorporates six divisions into one administrative framework: the Joe L. Ingram School of Christian Studies, the Department of Biblical and Theological Studies, the Department of Christian and Cross-Cultural Ministry, and the Department of Philosophy; the Avery T. Willis Center for Global Outreach, and the Don Kammerdiener Center for Missiological Research.
Elliff noted OBU is the leader among all colleges in the number of alumni going into missions work. OBU students, faculty and staff consistently engage in local, national and international missions endeavors, including adopting unreached people groups with the intention of sharing a Gospel witness with people who have never heard about the love of Jesus Christ.