Memories of Michael Elledge
On Christmas Eve 2010, I received word that Mike was found on the gym locker room floor unresponsive. No one knew exactly how long he had lain there with no pulse or respirations. It looked bleak, but he was revived and taken to the hospital with stabilizing vital signs. A month earlier, I had lost my wife to cancer and was still feeling that inward chill of loneliness, intensified while alone on a night like Christmas Eve. I felt compelled to check on Mike, so I drove about an hour to the hospital to see if I could comfort his sister or if my voice could penetrate his unconsciousness with an encouraging word, Scripture reading, or prayer. The usually busy streets were eerily silent that night as a light mist entwined the darkness. As I drove, I prayed and even thought about a possible future of Mike being brain damaged and unable to function as he once did. I will never forget that night.
By God’s grace, Mike recovered and continued to serve the Lord in preaching, evangelizing, and influencing people to be Christ-like, especially those struggling with addiction. Only the Lord could have known these many years since Christmas Eve 2010 that Mike would be “carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” on August 27, 2023, and that His providence would have allowed me the honor of praying over him, in fulfilment of a wish he had made known before his death, that a gospel preacher would pray over his body when he died. I just happened to be the one nearby when Mike’s spirit passed from its earthly tent. We continue to pray for Nicole and the entire Elledge family.
First and foremost, when I think of Mike, I think of a personal evangelist. Mike was first introduced to the gospel and was eventually baptized into Christ by Ed Duffy, who began studies with FSOP in Fall 1989 (the same semester I did), after retiring from employment as a corrections officer. Ed convinced Mike to attend FSOP, from which Mike graduated May 1995. Ed and Mike had one major thing in common: both had a past plagued by alcohol, and, as a testimony to the power of the gospel, both stayed sober and very active in the Lord for many years until they both unexpectedly passed from this life. Mike used this background to reach and influence many souls. In fact, his introductory bio on the FSOP faculty page of our website states, “His passion is sharing the gospel with the addicted community, which he has done for thirty years.” Mike would go places and attend events where that segment of the addicted community who desired sobriety would be present. This was his major mission field. He knew first-hand the destructive consequences of addiction, the saving power of God’s word, how to bring the two together, and the overwhelming victory that can be attained through obedience to the gospel (Rom. 1:16; 6:16-18; 1 Cor. 2:5; Gal. 2:20). Not only did he know this, but more importantly, he put it into practice by following Jesus’ command to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-20). Mike was an exemplary evangelist.
Insightful of God’s Word And the Ways of the World
Mike was very insightful concerning how ancient Scripture applied to contemporary situations. After becoming a Christian, he was one who definitely pursued God’s wisdom, as Solomon declared, “If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God” (Pr. 2:4). A turning point in his ability to study was when Jackie M. Stearsman, FSOP’s second director (1992-2009), introduced him to the New King James Version. Mike fell into the category of those who were not reared hearing, reading, and having explained to them the wording of the old King James Version. Like others, Mike was often frustrated in his hungering and thirsting for God’s word when he came across the often unfamiliar and ambiguous wording of the KJV, yet he had an insatiable appetite to understand God’s will. Once he had a Bible whose words were more contemporary, Mike blossomed as a Bible student and continued studying fruitfully while sojourning in this world. Mike taught with FSOP from 2002-2017, in both extension night classes as well as day classes in Lakeland. Most of his classes were from the Old Testament. He also liked teaching Friday afternoons, which is the most difficult time (due to student fatigue). This changed when Nicole, who would become his lovely wife, came along. We were happy to adjust the schedule to give Mike (and Nicole) Friday afternoons. His insight into Scripture was keen and on target. Because of this, along with his illustrations and applications, he was very well liked by his students.
A Man Before His Time
Mike was, in many ways, a man before his time concerning preaching and writing styles. Since my returning to Florida in 1996 to work with FSOP, the only times I heard Mike preach were on lectureships and perhaps a gospel meeting or two. On those occasions, though, I learned to appreciate Mike’s unique preaching style. He was somewhat casual and conversational, yet very serious and penetrating. Using his insight and illustrations from personal life, sporting events, or news stories, he effectively imbedded the soul-saving gospel into the hearts of those who wanted to learn. He maintained a great balance between Bible quotation, illustration, application, and persuasion (cf. Neh. 8:8; Isa. 50:4). That style is now more common, but Mike was ahead of that curve and was a master at it. This being ahead of the curve also applied to his writing style. As editor of the FSOP lectureship book since the 2000 volume, Mike’s writing style at first would give me fits. In semi-formal writing, the use of the second person personal pronoun, “you” (and its forms) are not supposed to be used, except on very rare occasions. For any other writer, though tedious, I would edit out the “yous” and “yours” by eliminating them or by replacing them (and their corresponding syntax) with third person personal pronouns. With Mike’s writings, however, there was no way to change them without rewriting the whole thing, which was practically impossible! Thus, I allowed Mike’s chapters to remain using second person personal pronouns. This is more the style these days, thus putting Mike a man before his time … but do not any other FSOP manuscript writers and future writers get any ideas! Mike was exceptional.
Let us continue to pray for Nicole and the grieving family. It is with sad hearts we contemplate losing Mike so soon and so suddenly. However, we do not “sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thes. 4:13). We also know that “Jesus died and rose again,” and that one day:
[T]he Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thes. 4:14-18)