Former Newcomerstown pastor gets national position

Dr. Mark Lail
Dr. Mark Lail

NEWCOMERSTOWN — It’s a journey of faith, time and distance that has led Dr. Mark E. Lail from this small village to the next president of the national Nazarene Foundation Board of the Church of the Nazarene.

The one time pastor at the Newcomerstown Church of the Nazarene has now been named to a national post within the church.

“The hometown nature of Newcomerstown always amazes me,” Lail said. “I have been gone 22 years and am confident that if I needed a place to stay tonight, I would have six to eight places available immediately. I was recently in the restaurant (April’s Country Kitchen) which was beside the Heller factory for breakfast. The waitress and two tables of customers nodded to me and said, ‘Hey Mark,’ just as if I hadn’t been gone for over two decades.”

Earlier this year, the Church of the Nazarene Foundation Board of Directors unanimously elected Lail as its next president. He will take office on March 2. He succeeds interim president Kenneth Roney. The election comes after a national search by the Nazarene Foundation Board, which began in April of last year.

In a news release, Search Committee Chair Judge Charles A. Davis Jr. noted that Lail has extensive knowledge of complex legacy gifts and connects well with a variety of donors.

“He brings to the Foundation’s presidency 22 years as a lead pastor; service as a district treasurer; 10 years as Stewardship Ministries director; and nine years in his current position as the Foundation’s executive vice president. Our new president has also demonstrated a commitment to the mission and values of the Church of the Nazarene.”

Lail shared some of his plans for the ministry’s future.

“I am honored the Church of the Nazarene has expressed confidence in me to lead the Foundation,” Lail said. “In its short 18-year history, the Nazarene Foundation has distributed over $100 million to ministries. I hope to build on the success of my predecessors by making donor relationships a top priority. The Foundation’s future includes greater collaboration with local churches, districts, and ministries at the Global Ministry Center.”

Lail holds a Bachelor of Arts from Mount Vernon Nazarene University, a Master of Divinity from Nazarene Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary.

“The Board of General Superintendents affirms the selection of Dr. Mark Lail as the new Nazarene Foundation president,” said Carla Sunberg, chair of the Board of General Superintendents, in the press release. “Dr. Lail is a great churchman and has a record of faithful service through financial ministry in and through the church. The church’s global ministries continue to benefit from the work of the Foundation and its support in making Christlike disciples in the nations.”

Lail (although he would prefer to be just Mark), said, “Ruth and I loved our time at Newcomerstown and remember it fondly. We pastored four different churches in 22 years. Some of our best, life-long friendships are from Newcomerstown. We presumed that we would someday retire and return there but now that we’ve lived in Kansas for 14 years, we have five children and five grandchildren living near us. We’re probably (Kansas City) Chief’s fans for life now!

“I pastored in Newcomerstown from 1992 to 2000. We brought the first computer into the church office. I remember teaching a new office assistant how to use the computer and she was amazed by the little pointy thing moving on the screen when the mouse moved across the desk.

“I was only 31 when I came to be pastor here. In many ways, Newcomerstown taught me to be a pastor. They also tolerated all of the mistakes and immaturity. Sometimes churches get the reputation of being either a pastor-maker or a pastor-breaker. Newcomerstown, is definitely a pastor-making church.”

Lail said there were two new ministries developed during his tenure at Newcomerstown: The Good Neighbor Place Daycare/Preschool and Journey’s End Ministries.

“I’m glad that they both are still in operation,” he said. “The Good Neighbor Place, named because it is on the corner of Goodrich and Neighbor streets, was at maximum capacity on its first day of operation. Journey’s End was started simply to love the people in town that struggled financially. The Lord blessed both operations.”

But his time in Newcomerstown shaped the future of his ministry.

“Somehow, church finance, stewardship of resources and fund raising became my pastoral specialty in life. In two ways I can see how that was sprouting in Newcomerstown.

“First of all, being the local church treasurer under me as a pastor must have been a challenge since I remember having four treasurers in a four year stretch. Otherwise, I remember a significant lesson in stewardship and generosity that came from my relationship with the other pastors in town. A few of us had developed a new non-profit called Journey’s End Ministries and after its first year it was obvious that the organization was ready for its own facility. The pastors in town were close and cooperated very well. I had shared the vision and needs of Journey’s End with several of them. Three of the pastors in town handed me names and contact information of some of their most capable donors and said, ‘I give you my permission to call on them and ask for money! That just doesn’t happen!”

But it did.

And Journey’s End Ministries is a vital part of ministry in Newcomerstown today.

It wasn’t only his ministry that changed while Lail was in Newcomerstown.

“When I came here we had two daughters, 4 years and 6 months. We had three more daughters there. It was the first baby born to a pastor of the Nazarene church in town since before WW II. The church treated our daughters like princesses! We had church services every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday. It was a challenge to ‘catch’ all five girls after the service because there were so many places to hide in the facility. I’m sure lots of the members remember assisting us in the after-church roundup routine. We lived there 100 months and for the first 99 of them we had at least one child in diapers. I’m sure our family provided some entertainment.”

Lail came to Newcomerstown from Niagara County and said he sent a press release to The Newcomerstown News.

“That’s all it took to be well-known,” Dr. Lail said. “For weeks I introduced myself to folks in the hardware store, the gas meter reader and so forth and many times their response was, ‘I know who you are. I saw your picture in the paper’.”

Lail said the time in Newcomerstown didn’t prepare him for the next leap in faith.

“I never dreamed that my pastoral career would take a turn toward denominational leadership,” he said. “I was recruited pastoring the Akron First Church of the Nazarene to the denominational headquarters in Kansas City to be Director of Stewardship. The diversified responsibilities in that position were to handle the ‘thank-you’ process for around 1,000 donations per week, teach pastors to preach and teach on stewardship, develop resources to train church treasurers and finance directors to handle funds with integrity, avoid fraud and compliance with ministerial compensation and tax issues. The denomination has a Foundation which serves the 5,000 local churches and eight universities in North America. I started devoting time to its work and eventually moved over to the Foundation as its Executive Vice President. That has put me on the road a good bit, traveling over 130 days per year speaking in churches, training pastors and especially working with major donors for estate gifts through bequests, charitable trusts and non-cash gifts such as real estate and businesses. I find the work very fulfilling and preach often in local churches or to groups of pastors. In recent years my travels have put me in 49 states. I am honored to be selected after an extensive search to be the President of the Church of the Nazarene Foundation. The Foundation has over $150 million in assets and distributes close to $10 million per year to Nazarene ministries. I have the joy of working with some of the Lord’s most generous disciples.

“I recently had an attorney say to me, ‘I would hate your job because I hate asking people for money.’ I said, ‘I never ask people for money. I help them complete the generosity that the Lord has already put in their hearts’.”

The time in Newcomerstown has also fueled another passion of a man who is already passionate about his career in faith.

“I have been a collector of antique tools my whole adult life,” Lail said. “Most pastor’s offices are loaded with books. In Newcomerstown, mine was loaded with antique tools. The old timers in the congregation would come in just to look around and even bring friends. The Rex File – Heller Brothers – Simonds factory in Newcomerstown, perhaps the town’s most prolific employer for a century, provided a lot of fun for me. I was able to tour the factory while it was still in operation. For 25 years I have searched flea markets and auctions for old tools but always kept my eyes open for ones marked Heller Bros. Co. In later years the factory was very focused on high quality files. In earlier years they made a variety of farrier’s tools, blacksmith tools, wrenches, hammers, masonry trowels, auto-body tools, etc. I have collected several but am most proud of over 60 Heller branded hammers.

“That led me to start a Facebook group called Heller Bros. Tool Co. Collectors and Enthusiasts. The group has nearly 400 members, many from the Newcomerstown area but also consists of tool collectors and farriers from across the world. There is a collective knowledge developing about the tools made in Newcomerstown and its history. Being administrator of the group has kept me connected to the community. I regularly get asked, ‘Why is a guy from Kansas so interested in Heller tools?’”

Because it’s part of his roots in family and faith.

The Church of the Nazarene Foundation, headquartered at the Global Ministry Center in Lenexa, Kansas, exists to connect the passion of God’s disciples with the vision of Nazarene churches, districts and ministries. Anyone can leave a legacy of generosity. Learn more about the Foundation at, email, or call 913-577-2983.

This article originally appeared on The Times-Reporter: Former Newcomerstown pastor gets national position