COLUMBIA, Md. (BP) — The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s (BCM/D) General Mission Board (GMB) unanimously elected Tom Stolle as executive director, effective March 3.
“I believe Tom is the man for such a time as this,” said GMB President Byron Day, “the man that God has endowed with spiritual wisdom, knowledge and understanding to comfort, calm and bring our churches together to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to all Maryland/Delaware.”
BCM/D President Glenn Swanson agreed, saying: “Tom is the right person at the right time to lead us as a convention.”
Stolle began serving the BCM/D as comptroller in 2004 and has held the positions of chief operating officer, director of human resources, associate executive director, chief financial officer and interim executive director.
Stolle grew up in Landover Hills, Md., and made a profession of faith as a young teen as a result of his mother’s salvation and life witness. “As a lot of kids do, I went my own way, and I was disconnected from my faith,” he said.
He met his wife Shelley through mutual friends, and they were married in 1990. They have three adult sons, Jordan Thomas (J.T.), Jake and Jimmy.
Stolle shared that when J.T. was born, he and Shelley wanted him to grow up with a Christian foundation. They enrolled him in a preschool program at Cresthill Church in Bowie, Md. Shelley became involved in the church and school and began to be drawn back to faith. She rededicated her life to the Lord and started prayer journaling.
“I remember telling her, ‘I’ll give it three months, and you’ll be back to your old lifestyle,’” Stolle said. But Shelley kept journaling. Tom discovered later that she was also asking people in the church to pray for him for his rededication.
God answered that prayer and used a member named Oscar Bernhardt, who delivered Stolle a loaf of homemade bread.
“I still remember it,” Stolle said. “He was super nice, and the bread was really good!” The simple act profoundly affected him. “God doesn’t waste anything, and He used that loaf of bread.” Tom agreed to talk to Cresthill senior pastor Jimmy Painter.
“Jimmy (Painter) came to the house and spoke with me, and God got my attention,” Stolle said, adding that he began questioning what he was doing with his life and knew, “God wants more for me.”
“So while J.T. was in preschool, I went in front of the church and publicly stated my intention to serve Jesus Christ, and I never looked back.” The Stolles named their youngest son, Jimmy, after Painter.
Stolle was working as a CPA for a large, successful company. His call to the BCM/D was providential. There was no advertisement. He had only heard of the BCM/D from people speaking about it at church, but he felt compelled to send his resume and cover letter to the Columbia, Md., office.
John Faris, the past chief financial officer, called Stolle and said, “We’ve been praying for more than two years that God would send us my successor. Would you be willing to come and talk about that?”
As Stolle prepared to work with the BCM/D, he and Shelley discovered their young son, Jimmy, had severe, life-altering, family-changing intellectual disabilities.
Over the years, Stolle openly shared his and Shelley’s struggles as they loved and cared for Jimmy, often with tears and emotional and physical scars. His candid openness touched many hearts. He became passionate about assisting churches in starting and strengthening their disability ministries, and that passion became a catalyst for BCM/D’s current emphasis on disability ministry. He hopes to partner with other state conventions to create initiatives to include this population and share the Gospel with them more effectively.
Additionally, Stolle chairs the BCM/D Sexual Abuse Task Force, standing for the protection of the vulnerable, an area he says will continue to be a strong focus for the convention.
Regarding his new role, Stolle said, “Words cannot adequately express how humbling this is that I would be asked to lead a state convention. … I’m excited about our amazing team and continuing in the trajectory the BCM/D has been heading.”
He cited the BCM/D’s ongoing emphasis on building strong, sustainable, measurable partnerships with associations, as well as BCM/D Ready, which is designed to equip associations to enable them to respond to natural and community/socio-economic disasters. Stolle also desires to advance Gospel-centered mental health.
Other focus points will include mobilizing churches through the State Missions Offering, with every dollar flowing back to churches through grants, and telling the stories of the churches, utilizing all forms of communication venues to do so.
“We have the greatest story ever – the fact that Jesus died, rose from the dead, and saved us from sins, not only for an eternity in heaven but also with joy on the earth despite circumstances.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sharon Mager is a BCM/D communications specialist/editor.)