“You can take the boy out of Newcastle; but you can’t take Newcastle out of the boy” – a saying that is very true of me. Although I haven’t lived in Newcastle for almost 30 years, I still answer the question, “Where are you from?” by reference to my city of birth rather than by reference to my present place of residence.
So, why is Newcastle so important to my story? Not just because I grew up there and lived there for over 30 years. Not just because I obtained work in Newcastle as a Law Clerk straight out of school, and eventually bought into the legal practice that first gave me that opportunity. Not even because I became involved in politics in Newcastle, being elected to Newcastle City Council when I was 26 years old, a role in which I served for 6 years.
Beyond all that (and much more), Newcastle will always be the place where I enjoyed a wonderful relationship with my grandfather – a godly man who passed away when I was just 11 years old; the place where my parents instructed me in the Christian faith, and where they still live; and the place where I came to know the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour, where I was nurtured in the faith, and where I was first released to serve in leadership and preaching roles.
Mayfield Baptist Church
For 32 years, Mayfield Baptist Church was central to my life. I came to know Jesus Christ, was baptised and nurtured (including through Christian Endeavour – a movement the older readers will likely remember), served as a Deacon, and played soccer and cricket for the church’s sporting teams.
In the late 1970s, mentored by former NSW Minister for Transport, Hon Milton Morris AO (our church’s Sunday School Superintendent), I was regularly preaching in various churches in the Hunter Region from the time I was 19 years old. I saw the opportunity to preach from God’s Word as a privilege – a view I still hold. A privilege to proclaim the Word of God and to seek to apply it to life; a privilege not to be taken lightly – or for granted.
One of the most difficult decisions of my life was to leave Newcastle – which also involved leaving the only church of which I had ever been a part.
Law and Ministry
I have never held to the view that there is a distinction between ‘career’ and ‘ministry’; between working for humans and working for God; between secular and sacred vocations. The Lord clearly led me into legal employment – and I endeavoured as best I could to serve Him through the opportunities the law provided. The Lord then clearly led me out of law and into pastoral ministry – a different means of serving the same God.
People often ask me, “How long have you been in ministry?” to which I reply, “All of my adult life,” a response that usually leads to engaging conversation.
In 2001 I was called to serve as a pastor of Frenchs Forest Baptist Church in Sydney, and 3 years later was called to lead their pastoral team. In 2009, we moved to Queensland, having been called to the role as Senior Pastor of Ipswich Baptist Church: “I’m not a Queenslander; I just live there.”
Although I am convinced that these roles were truly God’s calling on my life, I can say that of all of law, politics and the rest, pastoring a church is the most challenging vocational role I have ever had. The nature of the relationships is different to other roles, and the issues at stake are of eternal significance.
For about 2 years from 2016, I served as the National Director of FamilyVoice Australia, a Christian advocacy organisation operating at the intersection of faith and public policy. In this capacity, I had the privilege of meeting many concerned Christian folk extremely concerned about the direction our nation is taking. I also had the privilege of speaking in almost every State of Australia, and one Territory.
Twelve months ago, I accepted appointment as the Chief Executive Officer of Barnabas Fund (Australia) Limited, a ministry serving the persecuted church worldwide. Appreciating the disadvantage suffered by our Christian brothers and sisters in other lands puts our own experience in perspective – but also heeds as a warning of what may lie ahead unless our nation turns its face to God.
I conclude with reference to my family, not because they are of least importance but for the very opposite reason. Family is the basis from which any ministry flows, and I’d much rather leave readers with a taste of my family than all that has gone before.
My wife, Lindsay, is a wonderfully gifted and committed wife, mother, and school teacher. I think of her whenever I hear Garth Brooks sing “It was your song that made me sing… It’s always been your song.”
My eldest son, Dylan, is a Police Officer married to Wendy, a Nurse.
My eldest daughter, Cristyn, is following in her Mum’s steps, training as a School Teacher at University.
And my younger children, Edwina and Ian, are both still school students who also pursue their extra-curricular interests (dancing in Edwina’s case; soccer in Ian’s, and Speech/Drama for both).
I will always be “from Newcastle,” but I will also always want to ‘be’ wherever the Lord calls my family to be.
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. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html