I was born in Melbourne in 1951 to a dad who had to teach himself to read and write and a mum who never completed primary school. Shy and bookish I never quite fitted into the family dynamic.
We shifted between Melbourne and Adelaide several times, because of my father’s chronic health problems. Some of which related to WW II service in PNG.
I clearly remember being allowed out of a Saturday night for the first time at 15, I got drunk. This became the pattern for my weekends. When I hit year ten at school I completely lost interest in study. Unsurprisingly, I had to do my year 12 twice, just passing the second time.
Around this age I started to become seriously depressed. Half-way through a science degree at Flinders Uni, and with friends heavy into the party and drug scene, I decided that mixing with other people was totally meaningless and isolated myself, only commuting between home and study. My marks skyrocketed whilst my moods plummeted.
During one very dark day I reasoned that if life was to have any meaning there had to be post-mortem existence. This would need a “miracle”, miracles were supposed to be from God, since the Bible was meant to be about God I reasoned I should read the Bible “sometime”.
The next day a New Testament turned up in our house buried under a pile of pop novels, I snuck it to my room not wanting anyone to think I was getting “religious”. The more I read the scriptures, the more I was convicted that God had always loved me and that I had never loved him and was headed, quite justly, to the lake of fire and sulphur.
The fear of hell was daily terrifying. Eventually I felt so bad that despite my acute social paranoia I forced my way into a Christian meeting on campus and told them I wanted to follow Jesus. The rest is history.
Moving on to my honours year I was invited to apply for a doctorate. My head said “Yes”, but the Holy Spirit said “No”. The Lord led his unwilling servant into 4 years of state high school teaching. This started disastrously but ended with me solidly in charge of all my classes.
In hindsight, I needed this time for personal maturing plus equipping me to teach the people of God. After seeking the Lord for the next step we moved from Adelaide to Melbourne and a theology degree at Ridley College. Constrained to join the Anglican tradition, very unlike the Pentecostal and Baptist churches we’d worshipped in, I thought I’d end up teaching the bible in some third world nation. But God had different plans.
The Ministry Road
I found a proficiency in theology that far exceeded any other subject I’d ever studied. I topped Australia but studied way too hard along the line. After applications for ministry positions in 2 places were unsuccessful, I ended up in a “high church” diocese in northern Victoria.
The people didn’t know how to pray without a book or how to study scripture, but they were very receptive and we saw a lot of growth in those four years. In contrast, I found myself working with someone later removed from ministry as a practicing homosexual, and another priest who forced the bishop to move me on.
Despite lucrative offers to stay in Victoria the family, now with 4 small kids, headed to Brisbane so I could do a doctorate in philosophy of religion. No church, no ministry, no job, but the Lord, as always, provided. (Even when I was pushed out of a position by an insecure senior minister because of my popularity.) Next move, off to Perth and a focus on university aged people.
The first year of ministry in WA saw the congregation I cared for triple in size. Then I started to fall out with the main pastor; I was badly competitive. Removed from that position, I headed a group to replant an Anglican parish in buildings about to be sold. That parish is still strong and healthy.
Though after 3 years the congregation rioted one Sunday morning (shouting, finger pointing, accusing, crying, walkout) and it was time to move on again. To five years in a house church network, time with Churches of Christ, Lutherans and independents. During all this, more than a decade lecturing/coordinating theology for Tabor College.
These were generally great years, and I still retain contact with many past students who would label me as a “prophetic teacher”. Finally, we are back in an Anglican parish where we are well accepted as my wife and I facilitate various ministries.
My focus today is the wider city. I have been involved in numerous prayer and unity networks and chair the Evangelical Alliance. I also mentor dozens of people, from pastors to business folk. I firmly believe that if God sends folk to me, I will have a word for them. In a few weeks I will be in Myanmar again, fourth year in a row, to teach from a book on The Mystery of Christ I wrote for the Church there.
Jesus is my passion, and in my speaking and writing I try to prayerfully centre on him. In all the conflicts and hardships of the last 47 years He has never failed me.
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
The Rev. Dr John Yates is an Anglican minister in Perth and has 5 children and 7 grandchildren. He spends time in praying, mentoring and writing.John Yates’s previous articles may be viewed athttp://www.pressserviceinternational.org/john-yates.html