Stolle Emphasizes Partnerships at GMB Meeting
COLUMBIA, Md. — At a September 6 General Mission Board (GMB) meeting at the Baptist Center, BCM/D Executive Director Tom Stolle told board members his priority is partnership — developing deep relationships to accomplish more for Jesus. He also introduced five areas of focus — Members to Missionaries; Disability Care and Community; Poverty Ministry; BCM/D Ready; and Gospel-Centered Mental Health.
GMB members also heard updates from the BCM/D Sexual Abuse Task Force. During a business session, they approved listing the BCM/D Columbia headquarters for sale with the contingency of a vote of approval from messengers when an agreement to sell is reached. They voted to adopt a motion from the GMB Administrative Committee regarding BCM/D sexual abuse guidelines for the convention staff, and they approved the 2024 budget for presentation to messengers at the BCM/D Annual Meeting.
LaVale Baptist Church Pastor Jim Jeffries, filling in for GMB President Byron Day, welcomed board members and BCM/D staff.
In an opening devotional, Jeffries said, “In the midst of trouble all around, God does his greatest work.” He referred to Old Testament heroes God used to save nations, including Joseph, Moses and Esther. Joseph amid many ordeals; Moses, in his resistance to go to Pharoh; Esther, who was placed in a position “for such a time as this.” God used each through their struggles to save their nation.
“We’ve seen Him work in the past; if we would just take the courage and as the old hymn says, ‘Stand up, Stand up for Jesus’ — if we just stand strong in the power of His might, we’re going to see God do some great things.
Jeffries said, “I’m looking around at people who are here for ‘such a time as this.’’’
Executive Director’s Report
Stolle said, “Over the last six months, we’ve been working to strengthen the organization and establish priorities – to know who we are and where we are going,” Stolle said his primary priority is partnership. “We don’t do ministry effectively alone,” Stolle said. We want to come alongside each other to help and serve.
“There can be a partnership without a deep relationship. But I believe there can’t be deep partnerships without deep relationships. Not solely for mutual benefit. That’s what the world does. But as believers, we should strive for more. We should love one another. We should serve one another. Why? Because we can accomplish more for Jesus together than apart. That’s the reason this is so important.”
Stolle shared three ways to partner:
- Prayer — “I believe prayer moves the hand of God. Without prayer, we are powerless,” he told members. We should not rely on our own strengths to make sound decisions but ultimately we should set aside time and pray.
- Service — “It’s love in action. We become the hands and feet of Jesus when we serve.” Stolle said. God used someone to show up at a moment in all of our lives. Maybe it changed your circumstance, the trajectory of your life, or gave you peace for the moment. “The whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
- Financial Giving — A partnership is much more than financial, he explained. “It’s easier to write a check than to give our time and energy. We must hold hands as we seek to impact a world that desperately seeks Jesus — not begrudgingly, but joyfully, willingly, with servant hearts.” God provides not so we can horde but so we can invest in God’s work. Imagine my son; he desperately needs certain things, but what if I said I’m not going to do that, I’d rather have a TV. Sometimes we do that to our church and ministries. We say we love the church, but we don’t give what God says to give. “It’s no secret Cooperative Program (CP) giving has gone down over the past 16 years, but what does God continue to do? He’s continued to provide.”
Stolle also introduced five areas of specific focus or “pillars” for the convention. These are:
- Members to Missionaries — Encouraging and equipping every man, woman, and child to be missionaries where they live, work, and play.
- Disability Care and Community — Providing care and community for individuals and families who have been affected by disability.
- Poverty Ministry — Assisting churches in providing for the spiritual, social, physical, and emotional needs of people trapped in poverty.
- BCM/D Ready — Partnering with associations to equip and mobilize churches to serve their communities when tragedy strikes.
- Gospel-Centered Mental Health — Connecting churches with opportunities to pursue holistic care through community, conversation, and counseling.
Stolle said, “I’m not a politician. I’m not making promises we can’t meet as an organization, but I am interested in seeing what God can do to make it all happen when we partner together.”
Sexual Abuse Task Force Update
Keith Myer, pastor of Harvest Baptist Church in Salisbury and chairman of the BCM/D Sexual Abuse Task Force, shared about the First SBC Caring Well Sunday on Sept. 24. (Myer submitted the resolution to put Caring Well on the SBC calendar).
Abuse is not an easy thing to bring up on an average preaching calendar of a church, Myer told GMB members. “This (the Caring Well Sunday) gives us an opportunity to say we understand this is an issue,” Myer stressed that the emphasis provides churches an opportunity to “raise the flag,” and discuss the issue.
“It’s a difficult subject to preach about,” Myer said, adding that there are sample sermons on the website. “When you mention this, in a culture where statistically one in three women and one in four men have been sexually assaulted, more people will disclose, and it will give us more opportunity to minister and share.
The task force has developed material for churches to promote and use for CaringWell Sunday. You can access the material here.
Regarding the task force, Myer said it has evolved. In 2022 the paradigm was designed, considering the best way of thinking through abuse and developing the five essentials: Train, Screen, Protect, Report and Care. Myer said we now need implementation at a policy level and for the local churches.
Myer reported that Dr. Bergina Isbell and Brad O’Brien stepped down from the task force. The task force now includes Myer, Buckman, Stolle, and Associate Executive Director Mark Dooley.
Four churches are currently participating in an online sexual abuse prevention cohort, meeting for five Zoom sessions to learn how to implement each essential, with Q&A, and time for discussion. There are two weeks between each session for churches to complete “next steps” towards implementation. The task force hopes to use the cohorts to assist churches throughout Maryland/Delaware.
Myer also shared about the second reading and vote at the BCM/D Annual Meeting on a constitutional change designed to increase protection of the vulnerable. (Click the link below to see the proposed changes.)
In a business session, the GMB approved listing the Columbia Headquarters for sale. When an agreement to sell the property is reached, the sale will be contingent on a vote from messengers either at a future annual meeting or at a special called meeting. The GMB supports the position that efficient operations are not dependent on this facility. The BCM/D already has another physical location in Middletown (Skycroft) and the Columbia facility is under-utilized. Members felt the resources generated from a sale would be better used to establish a fund and earnings would generate ongoing future cash flows supporting church planting and church partnership. A portion of the proceeds would also fund the cost of a Skycroft septic system repair/replacement vital to the future health and sustainability of the growing camp/conference center ministry.
Board members also approved a motion from the Administrative Committee regarding adding “Abuse Prevention Policy & Procedures” to the BCM/D employee handbook, which outlines staff reporting requirements and responses to sexual abuse allegations.
In the financial report, Stolle told members Cooperative Program (CP) receipts for the seven months ended July 31, 2023, total $1,808,582.35. This is $(174,274.83) or (8.8)% behind last year-to-date (YTD) actual results. Receipts are also trailing the YTD budget by $(174,750.98). Note that concerning direct giving to the BCM/D, we are already $11,858.14 over the entire year budget of $120,000.
NAMB receipts totaling $322,525 are running behind at about 34% of budget. Stolle said this is not a concern as management expects that the funds will be expended and collected as appropriate from ministry. This represents a timing issue.
All major expense areas, except for Finance/Facility Operations are running below the YTD budget. The Finance/Facility overage is related to the higher-than-expected legal, insurance, and technology expenses. Stolle said staff will be asked to closely monitor expenses and tighten where necessary.
Currently, the bottom line shows a deficit of $(104,981.23). Management believes breakeven for the year is possible, but CP will have to approach budgeted levels for the remainder of the year, and staff will have to hold the line on expenditures. It is possible the Columbia operation could end the year with a deficit.
The state missions offering has declined in receipts over the last few years. The $90,659.83 that was received in 2022 funded the 2023 grants to churches.
Regarding Skycroft Conference Center, receipts totaling $1,836,572.76 are running ahead of the YTD budget. Skycroft is experiencing stronger usage from both camp attendees and general usage. Demand has increased.
Expenses totaling $1,418,568.94 are running ahead of budget as well. A higher number of guests equates to higher receipts but also results in higher expenses.
For the seven months ended July 31, 2023, the net Skycroft surplus is $418,003.82. Management believes the conference center will end the year at least in a break-even position. Stolle “We praise God that year-to-date attendance has exceeded expectations.”
Stolle said, “The BCM/D is in a good, ready cash position, with its bills paid in full and on time.”
BCM/D President Glenn Swanson closed the meeting in prayer.