BCM/D Exec Says, “We Need Each Other”
UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — In his address to messengers and guests at the BCM/D 2023 Annual Meeting, BCM/D Executive Director Tom Stolle said, “I have served for more than 19 years at the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware in a variety of roles. One thing I know is we need each other! We need our local associations, we need our churches, we need each other!“
Stolle emphasized partnerships. Referring to 1 Corinthians 12:12-22, Stolle said God gifts individuals differently, and since churches are collectives of individuals, churches also possess different gifts. “We must recognize that we cannot do this work alone! God has gifted us the way He has chosen,” he said. “We must be unified. We must relate to one another as partners.”
Partnerships of all types in the world are for mutual benefit, but our partnerships must be deeper, Stolle said, adding, “Deep partnership requires a deeper relationship. That requires communication, listening and learning, trust, unselfishness, and forgiveness.” Stolle said, “When we have churches that are made up of people who are radically sold out to Jesus, we can take a lot of ground! Don’t hold back. God made you to be more than you see yourself to be, and the only way that you can achieve that is through Jesus, — releasing Jesus in your life.
“When I was asked by the General Mission Board to accept the position of executive director, and my wife and I prayed and agreed to do it, I told myself, ‘I will not stand before God and waste this position and not do what I believe the Bible says that I should do and that we should do collectively.’ That is why I’ve introduced to our staff what I call our pillars, and I’d like to share where I’d like for us to go together.
The pillars are members to missionaries, disability care and community, poverty ministry, BCM/D Ready, and gospel-centered mental health .
- Members to Missionaries — “We can partner in our efforts to equip everyone — every man, woman, and child to be missionaries where they live, work, and play. We want every church member to be a missionary wherever they are. It doesn’t matter how smart or skilled someone is. God uses who He chooses, and we should not be dismissive of anyone. I have learned more from my son Jimmy than I have from any individual on the face of this earth, and Jimmy can’t talk. He will never live independently and will never drive a car. He will never get married. He has an intellectual and developmental disability but has given me a master’s class in how to love and live for Jesus.” Sharing an example of a “members to missionaries” ministry, Stolle pointed to Skycroft Conference Center. “This summer, 85 individuals, including one individual affected by disabilities, gave her life to Jesus. Through cooperation together, 85 more people have become potential missionaries, and thousands have accepted Christ through the ministry at Skycroft.”
- Disability Care and Community — “The level of lostness in this community is staggering. If you added up all the individuals with disabilities on Earth, you would have the third largest country on the planet. Per Joni and Friends, 1.3 billion people on our planet live with a disability. Yet, we don’t see many of these precious people in our churches. This must change!”
- Poverty Ministry — “We can make a difference in the lives of those living in poverty. Approximately 40 million people in the U.S. were living in poverty from 2021-22, and the child poverty rate in America has more than doubled. If God has blessed us with resources, shouldn’t we help?”
- BCM/D READY — “We can bring relief to individuals affected by disasters, not just natural disasters but social disasters. We focus on hurricanes and tornados, but where are we when cities are torn apart? This is such an opportunity to share Jesus, and when people are experiencing the unexpected collapse of the world around them, we can come in with the love of Jesus, as hands and feet of Jesus when they are most receptive.”
- Gospel-Centered Mental Health — “We can share the love of Jesus with those struggling with mental health. We can bring them to our church families. We can connect them with resources to receive the care they need. According to a Lifeway study, half the people in America affected by mental health issues believe the church does not want them there.” The numbers are staggering. Stolle said that according to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, one in five U.S. adults experiences mental illness each year; one in 20 U.S. adults experiences serious mental health illness each year and one in six young people ages 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year. Fifty percent of mental illness begins at age 14, and 75% by age 24. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 -14. Stolle said, “Youth ministry is critical.”
“How do we accomplish what God wants us to accomplish when the needs are so great? By taking one step at a time.
I believe our actions need to center around three things — prayer, service, and giving.”
Prayer is a priority, Stolle emphasized. “We’re not getting anywhere without prayer. It’s prayer that moves the hand of God. We’re like a hamster on a wheel if we’re not praying.”
Regarding serving, Stolle shared about his son. “I am convinced I would not be serving our churches in my current role today without God giving me my son, Jimmy, because he has profoundly changed how I view things and the way I live my life.
Matthew 25:44-45 says, “Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
“Let’s acknowledge the truth. We might try to win people to Jesus by telling about his miracles, but many are brought and accept Him by seeing you do acts of service and care, and you openly acknowledge Jesus as the reason why you are doing it. Helping someone you don’t have to when seeing a need you know God wants you to serve is way more powerful than most of us realize — just showing up and pouring into the lives of individuals.
Discussing giving, Stolle said, “We’ve got to give, and I‘m not just talking about money. Money is part of it, but I‘m talking about us. Jesus gave it all. He deserves our best. So, let‘s not hold anything back. We don’t give to get. We give because God gave. The Bible says, For God so loved the world that He gave.
No matter what gifts God has given us, we can all partner in prayer; we can all serve; and we can all give.
“I’m the personal product of prayer, service, and giving. In my early 20s, I didn’t want anything to do with the church because I was hurt deeply by the church. I was saved at 13, called to the ministry at 17, and told God, ‘I’m not doing that.’ I wanted nothing to do with it. My wife was convicted and said she was going back to church. I told her I’ll give you three months. She came home and said, ‘You should talk to this guy named Jimmy Painter (the pastor of Cresthill Church).’ Little did I know she was prayer-journaling, and all these people were praying for me. And this guy Jimmy Painter shows up at my house, and he’ll tell you, I was pretty different back then. But God did something. Two weeks later, I walked down in front of that church and rededicated my life to Christ. And over the years, this man has prayed for me, served me, and given to me to the point where my wife and I named our son Jimmy after him.
“I am a product of prayer, service, and giving. We all are.”