I often think I would have been greatly blessed and enhanced in ministry to have sat under his preaching and teaching.
The Baptist Morling Seminary in the seventies, when I was there, had similar wisdom in its entry requirements. Candidates for Ordination needed to have worked in 'the real world' for a minimum of five years before gaining acceptance into that theological college.
Similarly, the InterChurch Trade and Industry Mission (ITIM) for which I later ministered, required Chaplains to have had five years of pastoral ministry under their belt.
All these three reflect a basic understanding of the value of experience; experience in which the aspiring cleric would not only have ample opportunities to be 'tried' by any number of 'temptations', but would also have seen others also overcome (or succumb to) their own temptations.
Such lovely leaves can represent temptations
The mill of life
Dr Joseph Parker was reflecting a well established tenet of ministry, that having been through the mill of life, one might more effectively minister to God's people. Certainly the Biblical stories tell of temptations – money matters seem to be the major theme, as are sexual attractions.
Of course, the most famous and first example of one who did succumb to temptation was Eve – this was neither money nor sex, but something more cerebral and enigmatic - the quest for forbidden knowledge (Genesis 3 verse 6). The consequences have influenced the rest of humanity since then, because it led to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.
But there are also many stories from both Old and New Testaments of those who refrained from 'giving in', such as Abraham, who refused to accept a reward for service to King Of Sodom after a battle (Genesis 14 verses 22-24); and Peter who refused a bribe. Acts 8 verse 20 reads: "Peter answered: 'May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!'"
Jesus himself was tempted by Satan, with a bribe of power to change allegiance rather than money or sex. He successfully came through that trial by telling Satan, 'It is written: "Worship the Lord your God and serve him only." (Luke 4 verses 5-8). Jesus became man and lived as a perfect example to us. Hebrews 2 verse 18 says, "Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted."
Temptation is real like these leaves
Tested and Tried
Dr Joseph Parker makes the point, that all men (or women) who have been tempted, and thus 'tested and tried', have needed to find strategies to continue, these people understand the dynamics and struggle associated with such temptation.
The second part of the statement by Dr Parker indicates that those clerics who do understand these daily struggles of common people, will also be able to talk to their congregation in plain English, using everyday examples that working families will understand.
Jesus is the prime example of this too. He was an excellent communicator. Because He did understand the people to whom he was ministering, His Parables are some of the best examples using common illustrations to explain complex behaviour and theology.
This is the very opposite that I sometimes see with young ministers, who often have a tendency to spout knowledge without practical input; as Dr Joseph Parker remarked, "talk over our heads". It is an experience every parishioner has had to endure at some time or another.
I encourage our young emerging writers for Christian Today, all of whom have excellent ideas, to express their message in down-to-earth language, rather than follow their occasional habit of writing something that looks like an academic university essay.
The mandatory five years of working experience prior to coming into the halls of theological learning is a statement of recognition that all the theology books in the world cannot prepare a minister for what he will face in Ministry.
ITIM's industrial chaplaincy situation takes on another challenge. Among Australian workers in commerce and industry, only 15-20% of the population have ever graced a church on a regular basis. The industrial chaplain therefore needs a much broader experience of life and ministry to effectively minister in this arena.
Limited experience is like these exposed roots
A good back drop
Five years of pastoral ministry provides a good back drop to the range of issues a Minister might find in people's lives within a work force.
Having served myself for twelve years as an ITIM industrial padre during the eighties and early nineties, I discovered that the personal issues that came across my ministry path were considerably wider than what I had experienced in ministry in a small Baptist congregation.
It's a nasty world out there and many a minister has helped a situation, not through pious words and bible verses being recited, but by the practical knowledge of experience of life from within their own family and previous work situations.
The experience of life in all its persuasions is a 'must' for any minister and Dr Joseph Parker's words hold as true today as they did all those years ago in the late 1800s.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html