In Memory of Pastor Donald C. Elifson


Dan Elifson, one of Pastor Elifson’s sons, shared with us that his mother, Shirley Elifson, went to be with the Lord on August 3, 2012. For the family and those of us who knew her there is sadness. But as for Mrs. Elifson, she is now “with Christ, which is far better.”

Reminiscences by Ken Morgan

Pator Elifson was my pastor during my high school years and later when I was a student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He was one of my most important and influential mentors in those early years. He himself was a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and the prestigious University of Chicago Divinity School.

As a pastor, Don Elifson was inspiring. He loved the Word of God, he loved theology, and this was apparent to all in his passionate preaching. He never preached “topical” sermons. Always, Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening, he would preach through a book of the Bible–an expository preacher par excellence.

As a theologian, he had few peers among preachers. He was a devoted student of Charles Hodge, perhaps the greatest theologian this country ever produced. It was on Pastor Elifson’s recommendation that I bought my copy of Hodge’s three-volume Systematic Theology back in 1963. So much did Pastor Elifson enjoy reading Hodge, that he used to read Hodge’s Systematic Theology to his young daughter, Pauline, while she was sitting on his lap.

Much can be learned about Don’s theological position by the names of his children: Calvin, Pauline Grace, John, and Daniel. Although he did not agree with every article, he often said that the Westminister Confession of Faith was the greatest doctrinal summary ever penned by man.

Don and Shirley Elifson

For 35 years Don Elifson was pastor of Norwood Bible Church on Chicago’s Northwest Side.

In addition to pastoring full time, during many of those years he also was Assistant Professor of Bible at Grace Bible College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He would make the trip from Chicago to Grand Rapids once a week during each school year, spending the night in the boys’ dormatory. The school’s administration would schedule all his classes for the week during the two days he was there. The four-and-a-half hour trip was often perilous during the winter months. But God blessed his ministry at the school and kept him safe on the roads.

Apart from preparing for his sermons at Norwood and his classes at GBC, Pastor Elifson for his own devotions faithfully read through the entire Bible every year.

He was also a prolific writer of short articles, papers, and tracts, which he made an integral part of his ministry at Norwood Bible Church and its outreach to the city of Chicago. Many will remember his numerous articles and gospel messages that he published in the Chicago newspapers. We have reprinted a few of Pastor Elifson’s articles and tracts below. More will be added as time goes on.

Don did not have a great voice, but he could definitely carry a tune, and he loved to sing hymns. He was a deeply spiritual man. Many years before his death, he sang a hymn–solo, from the pulpit. The hymn was “Good Night and Good Morning,” and to hear him sing this hymn with all the feeling he put into it was deeply moving. In his introduction to it, he said, “I want everyone to know that this is my testimony that when I say ‘Good-night’ here, I’ll say ‘Good-morning’ up there.”

When comes to the weary a blessed release,
When upward we pass to his kingdom of peace,
When free from the woes that on earth we must bear,
We’ll say, “good-night” here, but “good morning” up there.


Good morning up there where Christ is the Light,
Good morning up there where cometh no night;
When we step from this earth to God’s heaven so fair,
We’ll say “good-night” here, but “good-morning” up there.

When fadeth the day and dark shadows draw nigh,
With Christ close at hand, it is not death to die;
He’ll wipe every tear, roll away every care;
We’ll say “good-night” here, but “good-morning” up there.

When home-lights we see shining brightly above,
Where we shall be soon, through his wonderful love,
We’ll praise Him who called us His heaven to share,
We’ll say “good-night” here, but “good-morning” up there.

Pastor Elifson was also a passionate patriot of this wonderful country in which we live. From the pulpit he once recited, not just “Give me liberty or give me death,” but Patrick Henry’s entire speech which contained that famous line. He delivered it with what I imagine was all the fervor of the great orator himself, Patrick Henry.

I always loved the sanctuary of Norwood Bible Church. The high A-line ceiling and wooded decor were indeed impressive for a small church. The verse behind the choir area,

“Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Rev. 1:5)

was a most fitting dedication for the church building.

Carol and I were married in this sanctuary by Pastor Elifson in 1973.

Sanctuary of Norwood Bible Church