By Sharon Mager
“I’m excited. We’re on the verge of some of the most amazing ministry opportunities that I’ve been a part of not just in my 11 years of service here but in my lifetime,” Tom Stolle, Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network’s interim executive director told General Mission Board (GMB) members at the Sept. 8 GMB meeting at the Network Center. These initiatives include:
“NAMB (North American Mission Board) states that more than 70 percent of Southern Baptist churches are plateaued or declining. Perhaps your church needs help in this area. Perhaps your church is part of this trend. There are resources available to help you face this challenge. The Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network wants to come alongside you!” Stolle said.
Jewish Church Planting
“Do we want to see Jews come to Jesus? Do we really? So often, we forget about this people group. Well, no more,” Stolle said. The Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network is going to work with other churches and other pastors to “make intentional church planting targeting Jewish people that do not know Jesus a reality!”
Muslim Church Planting
Stolle acknowledged that Muslims are another under-reached population. Noting the Network is strategically located in an area where many Muslims live and can be reached, he expressed his excitement over the Network’s new focus on planting churches for Muslims. “We are contracting with a former Muslim man who now serves as a pastor to other former Muslims,” he said.
African-American Church Planting
“I believe that we as a Network must do a better job of assisting other churches and endeavoring to start new African-American church plants. I believe that we have not done nearly enough in the city of Baltimore to share Jesus with some who live in the poorest, most crime-ridden sections of the city. In some ways, we have failed Baltimore. We are sorry.”
Stolle said the Network leaders also want to do a better job in the area of African-American church planting in other locations, urban, suburban, and rural throughout this Network. More than 30 percent of the statewide population in Maryland, according to the most recent census data, is listed as black or African-American. In Baltimore City, it is over 60 percent. “We just must do a better job in this area,” Stolle said emphatically.
Special Needs Church Planting
“As a parent of a child that has severe autism, I am personally on fire about this initiative,” shared Stolle. “There is so much I could say here, but I’ll just tell you a story. I received a call a number of years ago from a Mom. She was desperate. You see, her husband had left years ago. The mom was left to raise alone two daughters—two daughters created in the image of God. Two daughters that had severe autism. The family was poor. The mom had to be there to make sure her children got on the bus and had to be there when her children got off of the bus. This severely hindered her ability to secure a full-time job. After all, who else would be willing to help? The family had no car. The mom would stare at the church out of the back of her house. She told me that she wanted nothing more than to be a part of that church. I asked her ‘Why not just go? She told me she believed that the church would never accept her children. Perhaps the mom was not correct. I don’t know. But you see, the world had taught her that her children were somehow less than others. That they were not worthy, entitled, or even able to access the same services, perhaps the same church that others could, perhaps even the same God. God has placed on our hearts the desire to plant churches targeted at this very special population. So that they can hear the Gospel in a setting in which they are comfortable. A setting not made for us, but made for them,” Stolle said.
‘We have to pray, pray hard’
“I believe we are called to do great things for God, not because we’re great because we’re not. God is great.
“If we’re going to do great things for God what do we have to do? We have to pray, pray hard. Satan will seek to divide. He will use forces both inside of the church and outside the church to use the “Three D’s”: distract, discourage, and divide. When moving ahead to share the Gospel in this way, we can expect opposition— opposition from many directions and sometimes from strange or unexpected sources.
“That is why we should pray Psalm 90:17 (NLT), ‘And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!’
“We are here. God has ordained it so. If you are a senior pastor, God has ordained it so. God has put us here for far more than to collect a paycheck and just live life. He put us here so that others who don’t know Jesus come to know Him. At times, it doesn’t feel like an easy task, but that’s what we’re called to do. I pray God enormously blesses efforts of our network, your churches and your lives.”