Mark Baynes grew up in Macon, GA where he became a Christian at age 11. He attended Mercer University where he played college basketball and in 1992 he received a B.A. in Communications, which also included an internship with CNN Sports. Although Mark had learned some piano as a child, it was during his senior year in college that he picked up the guitar. "I didn't grow up wanting to be a musician." says Mark. "As a matter of fact, I didn't even want to be in the ministry. But God's ways are not ours & He will complete the work he began in us." In summer 1992 Mark moved to Thomas-ville, GA as youth intern at FBC. Mark then lived in Dublin, GA for two years, working and serving as part-time youth minister at First Baptist Church Eventually God called him to full-time vocational ministry and in 1994 he enrolled at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, AL. "My time at Beeson was life changing, not only because of the theology & Biblical studies, but just being around some choice servants of the Lord. Spending time with men like Dr. Lewis Drummond or Calvin Miller...the fact that I can call them friends...was inspiring and helped me to see what a lifetime of servant-hood & excellence in ministry is all about." In the summer of 1996 Mark had the opportunity to travel with Dr. Drummond to Ukraine, preaching the Word in local churches and using his guitar to encourage believers in the Lord. When Mark returned to Birmingham his invitations began to pick up and in the fall of 1996 he began to pursue those opportunities. "I began meeting staff members from various churches & the invitations began to come to lead worship at a retreat or give a concert for an event the church was having." All during this time of ministry Mark continued to press forward with his schoolwork and in the spring of 1998 he graduated with a Master of Divinity degree. "I was so thankful to the Lord for finishing my degree from Beeson Divinity School. I firmly believe that having a good voice or being a skillful player should never overshadow my knowledge of God's Word & the ability to teach it clearly. The music is a creative way of communicating the Word of God," says Mark. "As a matter of fact, I have become just as comfortable teaching a Bible Study or preaching from the pulpit as I am when I have a guitar in my hands." It was in his last year of studies that Mark began to make some new friends that would be instrumental in his continued calling. One of these new friends was Brent Lamb. An established songwriter and veteran Nashville recording artist, Brent agreed to produce Mark's CD entitled "Held Deep Inside". "The title of the CD comes from a line in the song We Belong," says Mark. "One of the verses says 'held deep inside of...a Father's tender love.' The apostle John reminds us of this when he says, 'What kind of love the Father has lavished upon us...that we should be called the children of God," Mark shares. "What a great message God has entrusted to us. This is a message for the rich & the poor as well as the young & the old. I hope we can sing this in our churches for a long time. In addition to producing the project, Brent was also interested in some of the songs Mark had written. This led to Mark becoming a songwriter for a publishing company and writers group that Brent was developing called the "The PlayGround Writer's Group". "I had always wanted to be a writer but never dreamed that a guy like Brent would be interested in my music. I am thankful to God for Brent & his encouragement to me, not only as a songwriter but as a man of God." Soon after the CD was finished Mark released his first single, "So Good", which began receiving play on Christian radio. Although Mark writes much of his own material, he also enjoys singing the classic hymns. "For a concert & worship service I'll use much of my own material but I'll also work in other great writers." Having grown up in a small church, he developed a deep love and respect for the classic hymn writers. "I enjoy taking old hymns & arranging them on the acoustic guitar or a fresh piano arrangement. Jesus teaches in the Scriptures that we are to worship in Spirit & truth. Well, no doubt those writers such as Fanny Crosby, Charles Wesley & Isaac Watts were filled with the Spirit of God & the hymns they wrote certainly contain truth. No matter what the age group, those hymns have a great & timeless message to which each generation needs to be reminded." Even though Mark has traveled as part of his ministry, his heart remains with the local church. Mark served in a full-time capacity at two churches in the Birmingham area. "Serving in the local church gives me a home base...a foundation from which to go out & a community to which I can come back. Whether on staff or serving as a volunteer...it makes no difference. The lone ranger thing is just too exhausting and difficult. We were made for the friendships community brings." Not only does Mark work to improve his musicianship but he also invests in his preaching skills. In the summer of 2001 he traveled to Oxford, England to study Biblical spirituality with some great Christian teachers, including one of Mark's favorite authors, Eugene Peterson (the translator of The Message). He also had the chance to experience the Highlands of Scotland while visiting a minister friend in Gairloch. "They happened to have a guitar, so I taught them a few new songs as well as learned some new ones from them. Only the love of Christ and the cross could have given us common ground so quickly!"! In the fall of 2002, Mark would once again return to Scotland to visit some friends from his Beeson days. It was there he met a very special woman from Scotland, Dawn Buchanan, who has since become Mark's wife. The two met at a post-graduate Christian luncheon in Aberdeen and then spent time together on a Christian retreat in the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland. "Who could guess the grand purposes of God? Dawn is a woman exceeds all I ever thought possible in a wife and life-long partner in the ministry. To know that she is for me, no matter what, gives me a tremendous amount of confidence to minister the Word of God." In 2003, the Lord introduced Mark to an excellent musician and a new friend named Kyle Bryant. Kyle and Mark found a common bond in their music and love for God, which led to Kyle producing Mark's latest project entitled "Confessions of Grace". This new project had been a long time coming says Mark. "These songs were written over a four to five year period. I never wanted to simply do another album for the sake of it. I really believe the Lord had been growing my heart during those years and the honesty & depth of these songs is reflected in that." Stylistically this new project reflects a growing attraction for Mark to the realm of Celtic, Scottish & Irish music. "Over the past two years I've added the hammer dulcimer, tenor mandola, Irish Whistle and the fiddle to the instruments that I use in my ministry & music." As the CD project drew to a close in May of 2003, Mark was off again to serve the Lord but this time somewhere that was very close to his heart. He received an invitation to live in Scotland for the summer of 2003 and work as an associate pastor within the Church of Scotland. Mark's preaching skills were strengthened as each week he brought the Word of God to several congregations in the Northwest Highlands. "That has been the highlight of my journey with Christ. To live in Scotland, preaching the Scriptures and exposed to the music & culture that is so close to my heart...it doesn't get much better than that for me! Mark was also able to court his soon to be wife while living on the West Coast. Dawn lived on the West Coast for much of the summer and it was there they got to know each other better and sought God's will for their future. By the end of 2003 Mark was sure that Dawn was to be his wife, so he proposed Christmas Night in front of one of Scotland's most famous castles, Dunnottar Castle. Just a few days later he was approached by a Baptist Church in Aberdeen about coming to minister as a full-time staff member for a year. In the meantime as Mark and Dawn were making wedding plans and praying about where God would place them, Mark's home church in Dublin, GA approached him about working for six months as the interim youth minister. As God's plan would have it, Mark was to begin work in Aberdeen in July 2004, so it was a perfect fit. God had confirmed His leading to them both by providing exactly what they needed. Mark and Dawn were married on July 11th, 2004 and after spending their honeymoon in Ireland, returned to begin ministering and living in Aberdeen, Scotland. Mark and Dawn continued to live in Scotland working as missionaries. For the past two years Mark has provided pulpit supply and worship leading to churches all over Scotland. He was also involved in the Aberdeen City Mission through his close friendship with director Adrian Davies. One of the highlights of his ministry with the Mission was leading worship for the City Wide Praise Night. All the compassion ministries for the Northeast of Scotland came together for one night of unified prayer, praise and testimony. "Nothing like that had really ever happened before." says Mark. "Most compassion ministries just do their own thing and never really make time to meet other folk like themselves who are down in the trenches meeting the needs of the poor & forgotten. But that night became a catalyst for an annual night of worship for each ministry of compassion. To be a part of something like that was really special." In early 2007 Mark and Dawn sensed God leading them back to America. "My heart will always be in Scotland. And who knows, in God's perfect time and plan we could return. But for now I just cherish my time of growth in the Lord and thank God for the wonderful memories of ministry I have there as well as the great friends I have to visit for years to come." Mark continues to lead worship, perform concerts and preach the Word of God wherever he can. "The size of the venue really doesn't matter," says Mark. "The goal is not to expand my ministry but to advance the kingdom of God. When we choose to follow Jesus then not only do we take up the cross but we also pick up a basin & towel." He explains, "In this ministry God has given to me, that is what the guitar, piano and preaching have become...a basin & a towel. Servant-hood is about being obedient. Jesus was obedient to the point of death...even death on a cross. We may not be called to literally die on a cross but there are certain points of obedience to which we are called. For me it is being willing to step out in faith in various seasons of my life...even to lay down the music or move back from Scotland, all for the sake of Christ & His kingdom." Whether he is ministering in Ukraine, studying at Oxford, preaching in Scotland or leading worship at a local church in America, Mark continues to try and follow the call of Jesus...wherever it may lead him.
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