By Sharon Mager
COLUMBIA, Md.—Chief Financial Officer/Chief Operating Officer, Tom Stolle, addressed the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network’s General Mission Board (GMB) for his last time as interim executive director at the GMB meeting on May 3 at the Network Center in Columbia.
“We at the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network have a high calling: to share Jesus, the living Jesus, with a lost and hurting world,” Stolle said. “We are not ultimately called to promote the next ‘awesome program.’ We are not called to be a ‘hype machine’ about how wonderful our work is. We are called to love others; to share the true Jesus, the risen Jesus. To point them to the only person that can save them—Jesus.”
Executive Search Committee Chairman Victor Kirk told GMB members a top candidate had been vetted; members voted on the affiliation of a new association, and strategy team leaders shared how God was moving in the region.
Phil Gifford, Network music and worship church strengthening specialist, led in an opening time of worship with songs including “Everlasting Lord,” and “Jesus Paid it All.”
GMB President Michael Trammell welcomed members and GMB Member Mark Dooley led in prayer, asking God to “…use each church to accomplish Your purpose.”
Stolle reported that Cooperative Program giving for the quarter ending March 31 totaled $929,855, which is $18,979, or 2 percent down from the same time period last year.
Stolle reported all major expense areas are on budget with the exception of Network Center Operations, which is running 4.5 percent over budget. That, he explained, is a timing issue. When half of the facility was sold, some property was moved to storage, cutting the “footprint” by 50 percent, however, there are upfront costs to rent the storage unit. Therefore ,the overage is really the acceleration of recognized expenses, he said.
In addition, corporate insurance costs are running higher than anticipated. However, management believes that by year-end, those areas will be within budget.
Stolle said Network operations show a deficit of $6,216 for the three months ending March 31, but with a continuing watch on spending, management believes it will break even. “Like any given year, breaking even ultimately depends on churches giving to the Cooperative Program,” Stolle emphasized.
In 2015, $138,594 was received through the State Missions Offering income to fund initiatives in 2016. These receipts will fund the five initiatives presented at the annual celebration in November: church revitalization and initiatives related to reaching Muslims, Jewish people, African Americans, and families affected by disabilities.
Regarding Skycroft, “results have been strong,” Stolle reported. While it is early, and most receipts are received between Memorial and Labor Day, early indications are that they should be able to break even, Stolle said.
“We thank the staff at Skycroft for their very dedicated service,” he added.
Stolle encouraged GMB members to pray for the Skycroft staff. “It’s an enormous job and work hours can be from 6 a.m. to midnight during camp season,” he said.
Stolle said, “The Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network is in a good ‘ready cash’ position with its bills paid in full and on time.” Stolle reported that the escrowed funds totaling $520,160.66 are set aside for a designated purpose, with $214,191.81 specifically designated for church planting.
Regarding the Baptist Foundation, Stolle said 15 churches currently have outstanding loans. He explained that the Foundation takes no profit. After a small administrative cost, funds earned from loan interest are given annually to the Network to start and strengthen churches. Stolle estimates the distribution to the Network to start and strengthen churches will total approximately $110,000-125,000.
Two churches have outstanding loans from the Arthur Nanney church loan fund. The Arthur Nanney fund was established in 2006 to provide small, emergency loans to churches.
Regarding investment balances and market performance, as of March 31, the market value of the investment portfolio was $7,038,932. Due to economic market conditions, the one-year performance reflects a return of -2.8 percent, the three-year return totaled 5.4 percent.
Stolle reminded members that the Foundation provides financial stewardship training and manages endowment funds for churches and associations. Even those with modest investment needs may take advantage of the same discounts offered to multi-million dollar investors.
The Foundation also provides education to churches, highlighting faithful stewardship as well as offering various options to give financially to the Lord’s work both in life and death. For more information, visit the Foundation website, www.bcmd.org/baptist-foundation.
Mark Massey, chairman of the affiliation committee, reported a request from a portion of Maryland/Delaware’s Korean Baptist churches to become an association affiliated with the Network.
Massey said many of the churches are already members of our geographical associations.
Samuel Cho, founder of Nepal and Bhutan Baptist Churches, Massey reported, has provided documents and the statement of belief, showing their affirmation of the Baptist Faith & Message. Massey said most of the churches already give to the Cooperative Program.
Jesse Arce, pastor of Healing Waters Bible Church, Del., said there is a similar Filipino association in New York and that New Jersey has a similar situation. Arce said the associations help the churches with church-planting teams and helps churches become stronger, especially because they can understand each other.
Harold Phillips, GMB Administrative Committee Chairman agreed, saying the association would strengthen the churches.
Massey said associations are “evolving before our very eyes.” The Board voted in favor of the recommendation.
Executive Search Committee Report
Referring to the search committee, Victor Kirk, chairman of the committee, said, “I affirm this leadership team.” Kirk shared how the team has worked prayerfully and diligently to find the candidate God has called. (See preceding story about Dr. Kevin Smith.)
Strategy Team Reports
Network Church Multiplication Team Strategist Mike Crawford said the team he leads is working on three major strategies: coaching, cohorts and community.
“Many of you are aware that we have four initiatives: African American, Jewish, Muslim and Special Needs. God is moving and opening up opportunities for us to resource individuals and local churches to reach all four groups,” Crawford said.Crawford said the inaugural special needs conference was a success. “We saw over a hundred people attend. God is on the move. Tom Stolle is already beginning to receive calls and emails from our churches about how to engage the special needs community. We are dreaming of the day where our Network can team with our churches to see plants specifically designed for families with special needs.”
Regarding other church planting strategies, Crawford said, “We are encouraged by the fact that we have two planters reaching Muslims for Jesus, and we are looking forward to seeing us engage them more. Robert Pristoop, (church planting strategist, Jewish Initiatives) has a man whom we believe God is calling to plant a church in Baltimore to reach the Jews!
“Praise God. Post Freddie Gray, we continue to work with the local churches in Baltimore to see how we can more effectively serve and preach the Gospel.”
Crawford asked GMB to pray for the team, and the planters and their churches. “Pray for our planters that God would open up many doors for the Gospel. Pray for our initiatives to be used by God to reach people who have never heard of Jesus.”
“Peace be with you,” said Network Church Strengthening Team Strategist, Randy Millwood, sharing the ancient church greeting.
Millwood said the team intentionally strives to help churches, to assist and strengthen them as they str
ive to glorify God.
The team emphases include discipleship pathways to help the local church make disciples; church revitalization; [small] groups, including building-based, home-based, market-based, formal/informal, etc.; equipping leaders and coaching pastors and pastoral staff.
The team’s approaches, depending on the church’s specific needs, include: a re-start/legacy option, satellite partnerships with healthier churches, churches starting distinct churches within themselves, transitional interims, Doctor of Ministry regional projects through Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the Network’s AWAKEN church revitalization process.
Millwood said team members have done “exceptional networking” during the Spring:
Melody Knox (Womens’ Ministry/WMU) has developed new coaching relationships and led women to assist IMB missionaries who had taken the Voluntary Retirement Incentive.
Phil Gifford (Music/Worship) is conducting listening sessions, consulting with several churches and is launching his first learning community.
June Holland (Bible Teaching/Children) reports over 500 VBS leaders trained. She is coordinating a training event in August with the North American Mission Board, LifeWay and other regional state partners.
Keith Hammer (Church Strengthening) and Randy Millwood facilitated a Lead Like Jesus Leadership Encounter with Network churches and a new partnership with YMCA.
Network Team Strategist for Evangelism & Mission Engagement, Doug DuBois, reported for the Evangelism and Mission Engagement Team.
DuBois said that 25 percent of Network churches responded to a survey, answering how the team can provide assistance. Church leaders responded overwhelmingly that they want help getting their congregations out to minister in their communities. The team will move forward to act with that information.
DuBois reported three staff changes: Bruce Conley will serve in a contract position as disaster relief coordinator. Mike McQuitty, Network strategist for collegiate ministries, is leaving on June 15 and there are discussions on how to continue to move forward with the gains in collegiate ministry. Ray Jenkins, a Skycroft manager, resigned on May 1. Emily Reedy has taken the role of associate director of Skycroft Conference Center and will be the key leader under the direction of DuBois.
DuBois shared the following updates:
• Skycroft’s staff is heading into its busiest season with a full summer of camps planned.
• Ocean City Resort Ministry is changing, DuBois said. They’re ending camp ministry and focusing on the 4,000-5,000 international seasonal workers.
• The Collegiate Ministry Team continues to reach and disciple students through campus-based, church-based and church planting ministries.
• Twenty-seven new ESL teachers were trained this year, including those for a church beginning ESL ministry. A second group of church volunteers will be trained this fall.
• Trained Disaster Relief volunteers from Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network churches have responded to various disasters nationally and internationally.
The “Prayer for U.S. Senators” initiative has gotten off to a good start, DuBois reported. Both he and Reid Sterrett, Network catalyst and connector, delivered their first letters of support from churches to senators on April 25. “Our efforts were well received, and we are looking forward to getting more of our churches involved in this initiative to pray for our country,” he said.
Visit online at www.bcmd.org to see each team’s full report.
Interim Executive Director Report
The Administrative Committee voted to amend Tom Stolle’s job title to include Chief Operating Officer, in addition to Chief Financial Officer. Stolle also served as the interim executive director for the past several months.
Harold Phillips said Stolle has juggled many responsibilities for a long time. “We asked him what he does, and it took awhile for him to tell us,” Phillips said with a grin.
Stolle, addressing the Board, said, “I am humbled and honored to serve here. I may never have the opportunity to address the Board [as interim executive] again,” he said.
He spoke of love, referring to 1 Corinthians 13, “We can resolve as an organization to be incredibly efficient. We can build amazing and well-thought out processes. We can promote what we as a Network are doing and raise more resources to accomplish it. We can strive to build amazing ministries. We can resolve to share Jesus in our cities. We can resolve to minister to families affected by disabilities, Muslim people, Jewish people and many others. We can resolve to do everything we can to crush racism, poverty, discrimination and a host of other things that may be coming to your mind right now. We can openly and unashamedly wave the banner of Christianity… But, if we don’t love, we would be nothing. We would have gained nothing. You see, it’s not about us. It’s not about how great we think we are. It’s about God. God is love. If we say we want to be like Jesus, we need to love like Jesus.
“It’s ultimately not about money, power, prestige or anything else. It’s about God. It’s about the eternal destination of souls. It’s about love,” Stolle stressed.
Bill Warren, Board president, referred to 1 Peter 3:8-9, “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and He will grant you his blessing.”
“We all have critics who question our love for Christ,” Warren said. “If you want to live in harmony, love like brothers.
“Christ isn’t just Lord, he’s our brother. We’re all brothers and sisters in a deep and profound way,” Warren said. “Our brother, Jesus Christ, binds us together. We must be devoted to one another in brotherly love.”
Warren said Jesus is gentle and humble of heart.
“Think about it. Jesus was only a few hours away from Judas’ betrayal, but nevertheless, He took off His robe and washed the feet of the disciples. He washed the feet of those who would run away from Him. He also washed the feet of Judas Iscariot.
“He calls on us to make ourselves low—low enough to say, ‘I’m sorry,’ even if they were wrong, too. I forgive, even if the other one doesn’t think they did anything wrong.
“Bless, no matter what. Do not repay evil for evil, insult for insult. Repay evil with blessing,” Warren said.
“As they repeatedly threw insults at Him, He continued to stay on the cross and die for their sins. If we want to call ourselves Christians, that’s how we should act – respond with blessing, not ignore it and walk away – with acts of service, prayers of grace and acts of kindness.
“When we do that, we please the Lord,” Warren said.