Mark Corts, 68, leaves legacy in missions, mentoring & SBC

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (BP)--C. Mark Corts, a pastor who made an impact in missions, on young pastors and on the theological direction of the Southern Baptist Convention, died Aug. 29 at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Corts, 68, who died of congestive heart failure after a lengthy illness, became pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem at the age of 25, serving there until his retirement in 2002.

He was president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina from 1977-79; trustee chairman of the SBC’s then-Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) from 1988-90 during 10 years of service as a trustee; chairman of the SBC’s Resolutions Committee in 1990; and chairman of the SBC’s Committee on Committees in 1995.

Corts was honored at the North Carolina convention’s Pastors’ Conference in 2003 with the establishment of a preaching award in his name, to be presented yearly to a graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary gifted in biblical preaching. Corts was president of the Pastors’ Conference in 1976.

A book by Corts, titled “The Truth about Spiritual Warfare” and drawn from a number of his sermons, is slated for release in September by the B&H Publishing Group of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Gary Chapman, a noted Christian author and Calvary’s senior associate pastor who has been on the church’s staff for more than 30 years, wrote in the foreword to the book: “I know of no one more qualified to write on the subject of spiritual warfare than Dr. Corts. He writes out of not only thirty-nine years’ experience as pastor of the same local church but also the experience of intense physical pain. He is a living example of the apostle Paul’s statement, ‘When I am weak, then am I strong’ (2 Cor. 12:10). Facing overwhelming physical problems over the last fifteen years, Dr. Corts has drawn on the power of the all-sufficient Christ.”

Corts, who was born in Ohio, was one of six brothers, five of whom have been in the ministry. John Corts retired in 2001 as president and chief operating officer of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Thomas Corts retired earlier this year as president of Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., and now is interim chancellor of Alabama’s two-year college system. Paul Corts was elected president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities in May after four years as the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for administration; he also is a former president of Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida and Wingate University in North Carolina. David Corts, of Peoria, Ariz., is a regional consultant for the Church Development Fund, Inc., and a former pastor. Mark Corts was preceded in death by his brother, Phil, a lawyer, in 1998. A sister, Naomi Corts White, is a retired middle school science teacher now living in West Palm Beach, Fla.

In 1991, the Corts siblings were featured in a two-day faith and leadership forum at Samford and its Beeson Divinity School.

During his pastorate at Calvary, the church grew from 125 members to 6,000 and to a budget of more than $12 million, with 25 percent of the total devoted to missions.

He founded the Calvary Baptist Day School, which now has 900-plus students in preschool through the 12th grade, and the Tarheel Leadership Network to mentor promising pastors in evangelism, revival, church growth and missions.

Calvary’s current pastor, Al Gilbert, said in a statement to Baptist Press that his predecessor “left a legacy of expository preaching, church growth and leadership, training in personal evangelism, casting a vision for missions (short-term teams and financial support) and training pastors ... formalized through the Tarheel Leadership Network where Mark had mentored over 300 pastors since 1997.”

Underscoring Corts’ heart for pastors, Gilbert noted, “He always took time out of his busy schedule to talk to a pastor in need. He was a pastor’s pastor and friend.”

When he first heard of Corts about 20 years ago, Gilbert said Corts was “standing tall in various leadership roles among North Carolina Baptists and the Southern Baptist Convention. Even at a time when there was serious division in Baptist life, those who encountered Mark always met a Christian gentleman. His Christ-like spirit had great impact not only on the people of Calvary, but on thousands of other lives.”

Steve Hardy, Calvary’s associate pastor for missions, said Corts had “a great heart for the world. Calvary first began going on overseas volunteer trips in the late ’60s, long before most churches even thought about doing more than praying and giving.” Through the years, Corts participated in overseas ministry in more than 60 countries.

As Corts led Calvary to be “a missions-giving and missions-sending church,” Hardy said, “It is hard to say how many missionaries have been called into service through the years, but it is in the dozens.”

Hardy recalled deliberations by Calvary members in 1972 over building a worship center and children’s building. “At that time we were looking at spending the unheard-of amount of $1.3 million,” Hardy said. “One well-meaning member challenged Mark by asking if it wouldn’t be better to send the money to missions rather than build a building.

“In a very loving way, Mark answered that ‘if we build this building now, there will come a time when we will send $1.3 million to missions every year.’ Today our church spends close to $2.5 million to $3 million every year for missions. What a vision [Corts had] as a very young pastor.

“When Mark served two years as chairman of the Foreign Mission Board,” Hardy added, “it was a time of difficult transition. I asked him how he kept perspective during that time, and his reply was simply, ‘For God so loved the world, how dare we do anything less?’”

Corts received a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies from Trinity College in Florida and did graduate study at Chicago Graduate School of Theology and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He received a doctor of divinity degree by Trinity College in 1971.

He is survived by his wife Shirley; four grown children, Stephen, pastor of Center Grove Baptist Church in Clemmons, N.C., Rebecca Corts Miller of Montgomery, Ala., Amy Corts Monk of Charlotte, N.C., and Jonathan Corts of Winston-Salem; and 14 grandchildren.

The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 2, at Calvary Baptist Church, with Al Gilbert and Stephen Corts officiating. Visitation at the church will be from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1.

Memorials can be made to the nonprofit Corts Center for Pastoral Life and Leadership in care of ShareLife Ministries, 4140 Clemmons Road, Box 159, Clemmons, NC 27012.

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