Longtime pastor leaving Suffolk

Published 8:19 pm Saturday, November 9, 2013

The longtime pastor of a Suffolk church who spent years building the fold here has taken a position that will help keep the fold together nationwide.

Dr. Mark Croston, who has been pastor of East End Baptist Church for the past 26 years, will preach his final sermon on Dec. 1. He and his wife, Brenda, will relocate to Nashville, Tenn., for him to become national director for black church partnerships for Lifeway Christian Resources.

“I’ll be providing training and resources to the 3,484 African-American churches in the Southern Baptist Convention and a number of the other ethnic churches in the convention,” Croston said.

Email newsletter signup

Croston, who also served on the School Board from 1993 to 2000 and came back to fill part of a term in 2008 after another member resigned, said he is saddened to be leaving the church but felt the call from God.

“I couldn’t think of a reason I would want to leave there, except I feel like this is what God wants me to do,” he said, adding his congregation had been shocked and saddened. “But they have been very supportive and affirming throughout this whole time, much more than I would have anticipated.”

In his letters of resignation to the church and to the Virginia Baptist State Convention, of which he was president, Croston said he felt the call to be more involved in “the task of helping to make the church on earth more like the church will be in heaven … encouraging racial and ethnic inclusion in the largest Christian protestant denomination in the United States, the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Croston said he grew up in a National Baptist Church and did not even know there was a Southern Baptist Convention until he was older. He has maintained ties with both organizations.

“I truly believe there is a need for both,” he wrote. “I have believed that if we can change the racial complexion of the Southern Baptist Convention, we can positively affect the race relations issues in America in general.”

While Croston wrote in the resignation letter that he does not want to leave, God had bigger plans, he said.

“None of us every fully knows what our future holds, but we make our own plans and have our own thoughts,” he said. “But there are always times and circumstances that may change all of those things. It’s important for us to keep our eyes open and our hearts sensitive to the leading of God’s spirit, because He has a greater plan in mind and He certainly has not let us in on every piece of it.”