Longtime pastor will use skills honed in congregations for wider engagement

Central Texas minister Mark Newton said he will use all his pastoral skills to engage churches for a Baptist university.

By Jeff Brumley

Texan Mark Newton says he had no intention or interest in leaving the pulpit, even with a quarter century of pastoring churches under his belt.

But Newton did just that recently by stepping down as pastor at First Baptist Church in San Marcos, Texas, to become director of church engagement for Baylor University.

The draw to the newly created position was his existing passion for relationship building and promoting his alma mater.

“As a pastor I love the pastoral end of ministry,” said Newton, who begins work at Baylor on March 19. “It’s about building relationships — having that cup of coffee with that pastor and asking what can Baylor do to help the local church, pastor and staff?”

NewmanNewton, who has been active in Cooperative Baptist Fellowship churches and causes, spent a few minutes to share how he plans to relate to churches across the Christian spectrum in his new ministry.

What does the director of church engagement do?

It’s a brand new position at Baylor, so there definitely is not a handbook or a very detailed job description. But in essence, it will be the point-of-contact for churches wanting to relate to Baylor, and I will be the face of Baylor for churches. It involves a lot of relationship-building between churches, not only in Texas but across the United States — and not only with Baptists, but any church that chooses to relate to Baylor.

What is the benefit to Baylor in making those connections?

At Baylor there are sports networks, alumni networks, science ... all relating Baylor back to its constituents. The university realized, “Wow, we are missing churches and churches send us students — Baptist and non-Baptist.” I’ll be connecting those dots and also between Truett [Seminary] and the churches, because there is a direct link there. ... And certainly there will be some development work.

What do the churches stand to gain?

I can be a conduit for churches looking for pastors because I know Truett and Baylor. I can make those connections. We will also begin developing some programming — opportunities to bring churches and church leadership to campus for various events and workshops.

In your ministry, did you always lead CBF churches?

I was at the first meeting in Atlanta when the whole thing started, and I have always been a CBF person. Every church I have served has been a CBF prototype, and I was on the CBF Coordinating Council 1999 to 2002.

Will your strong CBF background make it hard to relate to Southern Baptist churches?

While I have been on the CBF Coordinating Council, I have also been a vice president of the BGCT and I am currently on the BGCT’s committee on committees. While relating to the SBC may seem very difficult, we have some strong SBC churches that send us students and I will be glad to love on them and receive them ... and I am very ecumenical. I also think a huge untapped resource are the non-denominational and Bible churches that are growing and running thousands on Sundays. ... I think they need to know about Baylor.

What in your ministry prepared you for such a position?

I have loved the church and continue to believe in the church, and I believe the best things for the church are not in the past but in the future. And I am a loyal green-and-gold Baylor alumni. So I believe in the mission of the university. I can’t think of any other position I would have left the pastorate for. This will allow me to love on pastors and churches while telling the Baylor story.

Have you decided where you will attend church in Waco?

I have not. It’s been a long time since I have had to do that.