The early years
I was born in Palmerston North in July 1970, a provincial town north of Wellington in the southern North Island, New Zealand. Palmy is inland, flat, and mostly windy, but when that’s all you know, it’s all good, and it was. I’m the youngest of three children and I grew up in a teacher’s home, marked by the importance of faith and friends.
Primary schooling was at Central Normal School, intermediate schooling at Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School, and high schooling at Palmerston North Boys High School. The first two normal schools were no reflection on the kids, normal schools were just where trainee teachers learnt their craft.
My formational years were stable and secure but were hindered by a couple of events that were probably insignificant to most but rocked my confidence in who I was; low self-esteem and a growing sense of insignificance followed me into adulthood.
The changing years
1986 was the first year of internal assessment in a redesigned education system in NZ. I was in Year 12 (Form 6 as it was), the second-to-last year of NZ’s education system. I realised mid-way through the year that internal assessment meant consistent results were needed, not just a great exam at the end of the year.
Needless to say I realised this too late and ended up leaving school a month after my 16th birthday to commence a job at the bottom of the ladder at Eastern & Central Trustee Bank.
The next 12 years were spent climbing the corporate ladder, as both I and the bank grew up. The bank morphed into Westpac and I morphed into a senior credit manager at Head Office in Wellington. My banking career was successful and enjoyable and had the foundation for greater things, but God had other ideas that I tried to ignore. Eventually though, I had the courage to listen.
The call to ministry
In 1998 our family was living comfortably in Wellington. Married in 1991 to the best woman in the world. we had by then 3 young children (5, 3 & 1) and a teenage foster daughter.
After finally heeding God’s call to firstly sort my self-esteem out and then secondly to head towards a career in pastoral ministry, we relocated at the beginning of 1999 to Papatoetoe in South Auckland and I commenced three years of theological education at Carey Baptist College, the theological college of the Baptist Churches of NZ.
A month before I resigned from the bank I had achieved the highest banking award in NZ as I became a Fellow of the Bankers Institute of NZ. Over and out.
Achieving a Bachelor of Theology changed my life immeasurably. The Bible was God actually speaking to me and it came alive like I’d never known. Living in a block of 6 houses was a wonderful experience (we are both extroverts after all!).
The people, the theology, the fieldwork, another child, being student president, the diversity were totally transforming and helped us cope with the tragic death of Jo’s Mum in a car accident in that middle year. Tragedy and change, they’re both ultimately good for us if we allow God to shape us.
After graduating from Carey we relocated to New Plymouth in provincial Taranaki, the nob on the western side of the North Island, where I became Senior Pastor of Bell Block Baptist Church. I changed the name of that church to Northpoint, one of my first ministry leadership challenges – I learnt a lot in that process.
We enjoyed seven wonderful years in New Plymouth; the children thrived, the church grew in so many ways, we built houses, and Jo and I had the pleasure of working side-by-side for the first time.
Time in Taranaki was so formational, it was where I read and thought and learnt the value of trial-and-error and gained experience of church leadership that was so different to secular corporate leadership, particularly as it related to leadership of a staff team – the God factor always complicates restructuring!
While camping at our regular camping spot on the shores of Lake Taupo in January 2008 I received a call from chair of the search team of Windsor Park Baptist Church on Auckland’s North Shore, one of the largest churches in our denomination.
They were searching for a new Senior Pastor. That call ruined my holiday as my mind wandered around that conversation. Ultimately that day started a process that resulted in our relocation to this church in October of 2008. Leaving a church you loved and a people you had grown with was the most difficult career decision I have made in my life. Argh, it’s still a little painful.
God said one thing to me about that call, ‘it’s at Windsor Park that you’ll be able to practice everything you’ve thought about and where you’ll find the most contentment about who you are as a leader.’ Almost eleven years later, He has been faithful to what He said.
Windsor Park was a diverse community of faith and is even more so now through my leadership. I’ve learnt so much, I’ve wrestled with the ups-and-downs of ministry, my family has thrived, and together we’ve lived one of the catch phrases of our church – we do life and faith, together.
God has been faithful. The opportunities I’m afforded are spectacularly exciting. The various organisations, boards, ministries and missions I get to be involved with keep me young. As a chaplain to a professional basketball team I get to grow. I am content (mostly).
And yet at the same time, I’m 49, the ‘best is yet to come’.
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