Dr. Tom Elliff
Features Spring 2022

OBU Launches Tom Elliff Center for Missions

The Tom Elliff Center for Missions is positioned to help OBU be the global leader in missions education in the world. Dr. Elbert Smith, who has trained more missionaries than anyone, Dr. Mike Hand, who will connect churches to OBU and the world, and Dr. Tom Elliff, who will be mentoring students and pouring his wisdom into their lives, all three complement a world-class faculty and enhance OBU missions education. If anyone desires to be equipped to serve Christ among the nations, OBU is the place to do it.
— OBU President Dr. Heath A. Thomas

Three leaders with incredible backgrounds in ministry and missions have been brought together at OBU to form a unique center designed to prepare students for missions opportunities throughout the world. 

Launched in January 2022 on the OBU campus, the new Tom Elliff Center for Missions strategically combines the expertise and experience of former International Mission Board President Tom Elliff, former IMB Church Missional Strategist Mike Hand, and former IMB Director of Field Personnel Orientation Elbert Smith. Each of these men will play distinct roles in the Elliff Center for Missions, bringing together unique mentorship opportunities, exceptional mission field training, and vital church partnerships with a world-class OBU education.

“Dr. Elliff has spent his life reaching others with the gospel of Jesus Christ as a pastor, a denominational leader and a missionary. OBU shares his desire to impact and equip the next generations of ministry leaders and missionaries for the call to take the gospel to all the nations as we are told in Matthew 28:18-20,” OBU President Dr. Heath A. Thomas said. “He is a passionate advocate for advancing the gospel, and this center in his name carries that same passion for gospel advance in our day.”

Envisioning a movement of multiplying disciples following Christ into His harvest, the Elliff Center will lean heavily on providing the training essential for a lifetime of effective service. Central to the Center’s strategy is a path that takes the student from the church through the University and to the world.  

OBU students will also be introduced through the Elliff Center to key missions leaders via missions forums and other events held regularly on campus. These opportunities greatly enhance the OBU education experience provided through the Herschel H. Hobbs School of Theology and Ministry. Building strong connections with churches, recruiting students into OBU’s missions and ministry programs and providing scholarships for students participating in specific training events and missions activities, the Elliff Center seeks to effectively reinforce OBU’s purpose of equipping the next generation of future shapers to live all of life, all for Jesus. 

The Center also works in partnership with the Avery T. Willis Global Outreach Center whose purpose is to provide opportunities and training for students in any OBU degree program to participate in short-term GO trips throughout the year. Students travel to locations throughout the world on GO trips offered during J-Term (in January), spring break and summer months. 

A generous ministry partner has funded the work of the Elliff Center and provided resources to help achieve its purpose. Additional partners are being sought out to provide resources for an endowment that will fund long-term scholarships and a faculty chair. 

Elliff Center Staff

Dr. Elbert SmithDr. Elbert Smith, ’80
Elliff Center Director and Assistant Professor of Missions

Smith began as a church planter in Mexico, before overseeing more than 150 missionaries from Mexico to Panama. As director of field personnel orientation with the IMB, he oversaw the orientation of more than 7,600 IMB workers from 2004 to 2019. Prior to joining OBU this year, he served as an international trainer at the Global Training Centre in Redhill, United Kingdom. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in religion from OBU, a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a Doctor of Ministry in church and mission from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in applied theology: missions from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Dr. Michael HandDr. Mike Hand
Special Assistant to the President for Great Commission Initiatives

Hand served as a pastor for 35 years before going to work for the Inter-national Mission Board, where he served as special assistant to the president and church missional strategist. In 2016, he went to work for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma as the partnership mission strategist. Hand earned a Bachelor of Arts in music from Tennessee Temple College, a Master of Ministry from Tennessee Baptist Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in leadership from Tennessee Temple University. 

Dr. Tom ElliffDr. Tom Elliff
Lecturer, Mentor and Facilitator in Missions

Elliff served as the Inter-national Mission Board’s president from 2011-2014 and as senior vice president for spiritual nurture and church relations from 2005-2009. Prior to this, he pastored churches for 42 years in Arkansas, Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma, including his service as pastor of First Southern, Del City, Oklahoma, from 1985 to 2005. He also served as an IMB missionary in Zimbabwe from 1981-1983. He served two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention and a term as president of the SBC Pastors Conference. Elliff earned a bachelor’s degree from Ouachita Baptist University, a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Programs associated with the Elliff Center for Missions

Students are equipped at OBU for their callings as missionaries through one of two OBU undergraduate programs and a graduate program: the Bachelor of Arts in global marketplace engagement, the Bachelor of Arts in cross-cultural ministry and the Master of Arts in intercultural studies.

The global marketplace engagement degree prepares students to enter both marketplace and ministry by blending marketplace skills, ministry training and extensive internships in business and ministry settings. 

The cross-cultural ministry degree provides biblical and theological foundations for cross-cultural ministry and missions both in North American and international contexts.  

Students studying toward the BA in cross-cultural ministry also have the opportunity to pursue the 4+1 option. This allows students to earn the bachelor’s degree in CCM and the master’s degree in intercultural studies in just five years. Because of OBU’s unique relationship with the IMB, students who complete the 4+1 option meet the educational requirements for career appointment with the IMB.

For more information, visit the Elliff Center website.