History has some messages for us. Some very evil people in places of leadership have done great harm. Some very godly people in places of leadership have done great good. Both lessons should not be forgotten.
Auschwitz was a Nazi death camp where nearly a million Jews were slaughtered for one reason – they were Jews. In the same World War II concentration camp, hundreds of thousands of Poles, Roma and others were robbed of life. In many other death camps throughout Germany and Poland, more than six million Jews were tortured and killed in one of history’s most inexcusable moments.
It would be convenient to forget such cruel, inhumane moments of history. But we should not – ever!
A disturbing report was released last week with the results of a survey commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. It found that 66 percent of Americans ages 18 to 34 cannot identify what Auschwitz was. The figure for all adults was 41 percent. “Heartbreaking, appalling, inexcusable,” I said to myself. “How are we failing to teach the valuable lessons of history to the next generation?”
American philosopher George Santayana is attributed with the saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” If he is correct and the survey is accurate, Americans can expect ominous days ahead. We pray that will not be so.
In the same week this stunning report came out, my attention was drawn toward the other end of the spectrum to something very positive, but still reflecting on the value of history’s lessons.
I wondered if younger North Carolina Baptists know about those who have made extremely positive contributions to Kingdom ministry in our state and shaped the biblical course we now travel. Do others realize that our state convention was spared the pain of serious division in recent decades?
The contrast of these polar opposite lessons of history came to mind after the April 10 Heritage Awards Luncheon at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro.
Each year the North Carolina Baptist Foundation hosts the Heritage Awards Luncheon in conjunction with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). This formal gathering allows each N.C. Baptist-related entity to honor a person or couple who has made a significant contribution to the institution’s ministry goals through their time or resources. It’s an impressive event that no other Baptist foundation or state convention provides for their institutions. (Click here to see the full report on this year’s Heritage Awards honorees.)
Those of us who have been active in North Carolina Baptist life for more than 15 years will readily acknowledge the strategic role of the late C. Mark Corts in shaping Baptist life as we know it. I’ve heard seasoned N.C. Baptist leaders say, “Mark Corts was the most influential voice for keeping the Baptist State Convention from splitting in the 1990s.”
The leadership he gave to pastors is highly valued. “He was a voice of wisdom and reason,” others said. “Always a gentleman, Mark Corts was a visionary leader.”
I hope those who are not familiar with this man, will pay attention to my brief commentary.
For many years, I wanted to posthumously honor Mark Corts, but the Heritage Awards were reserved for those who are living. However, this year, the guidelines were revised, opening the door to honor deceased Baptist leaders.
With his wife of 48 years, Shirley, standing beside me at the luncheon and other family members present, the Biblical Recorder honored Mark Corts because of his vision and leadership. His influence on the current course of the Recorder is measureless.
Mark Corts was the senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem for more than 39 years. He died of congestive heart failure on August 29, 2006 at the age of 68.
At the age of 25, he became the pastor of Calvary and served there until his retirement in 2002. 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 served as president of the BSC (1977-79) and on the Fruitland Baptist Bible College board of directors. He was chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Resolutions Committee in 1990, and chairman of the Committee on Committees in 1995.
Corts was a member of the Foreign Mission Board, now International Mission Board, for 10 years and chairman of that board for two years.
He mentored hundreds of young pastors through the Tarheel Leadership Network, a yearlong training program he developed to equip the next generation of leaders that continues after his passing. His son, Steve, leads Tarheel Leadership training today in cooperation with the BSC. Steve Corts is senior pastor of Center Grove Baptist Church in Clemmons.
Mark Corts was a very rare individual. He expressed genuine warmth and compassion in personal conversations as well as in relationships. He lived with a strong passion for the truth of scripture. He demonstrated an unswerving commitment to the Great Commission. His love for missions, missionaries and mission involvement was unquestionable. His passion for equipping pastors was unending. He was humble, wise, gracious and winsome.
As a teenager, Steve Hardy knew Corts as his pastor. Later, he served with Corts on Calvary’s church staff as coordinator of Tarheel Leadership and minister of missions. “Mark loved Baptist life and saw the importance of serving North Carolina Baptists and Southern Baptists with the same extraordinary leadership skills that he also used to grow Calvary church,” Hardy said.
“Many of us remember that during times of great turmoil in our state and national conventions, Mark was the voice of reason that things would change and we should keep working toward the goal of returning the conventions to their biblical mandates.
“If you were a pastor seeking advice, a listening ear, or spiritual direction, Mark always made time in his very busy schedule to listen and help as he could. He became your friend, calling you by name and greeting you with genuine interest in your ministry. He had a passion for strengthening churches and developing pastors’ skills to lead their churches to grow and thrive.”
He strongly believed in the work of North Carolina Baptists and the promotion of that work through the Biblical Recorder. I often apply models of ministry and leadership that I learned from Mark Corts to my job as editor of the Biblical Recorder.
I am forever indebted to Dr. Corts. N.C. Baptists have many reasons to appreciate his contributions to our convention.
Please, let’s learn about history’s horrible atrocities, and never forget the lessons we learned. And, please do not forget the spiritual giants in our Baptist history. Do not forget the lessons they taught us on matters of unity, conviction and the advance of the gospel.