The Favourites Chocolate Talk

I am one of those people, when someone asked to do a kids talk in church, smilies and nods outwardly and panics inwardly. I like doing them. People who do them seem to have so much fun. But the coming up with the idea: Google becomes my best friend!

I was asked to do a talk at a Christmas Eve service this year for “we don’t know how many kids and how old they will be”. But this year I was prepared!!  Someone had sent me the chocolate talk and I filed it away for a moment like this.

The problem with the chocolate talk is that when it comes buying the chocolates, its not cheap. Especially for a talk when you don’t know if any of the kids will turn up.


All the Chocolate you need for the Chocolate Talk!

Fortunately I found a box of Favourites on sale. I figured I could re-write the talk around them. And it would only cost me $6!!

The first draft was a poem. I figured it would be clever to put some of the word plays to rhyme and it would make a bit more sense.

The Chocolate Christmas Poem

A tale I have, though it’s quite true.

Of a baby, some cows and a shepherd or two

And Some angels that all up lit the night

And to help us some clues sweeter than a TURKISH DELIGHT

Joe was a man to be married quite soon

But was worried when his wife started to blow up as a balloon

An angel arrived in a DREAM and said “Joe, be cool

Your son is destined to become God’s great crown Jewel”.

Walking to Bethlehem made poor Joe’s energy reduce

“Hey Mary, I think we need a good BOOST

Let’s stop on the way, there’s a good chick

I know you are preggiers but sort out a PICNIC

Finally they got into town and had a rest somehow

With a chicken, a horse and few DIARY MILK cows

There Jesus was born, the king of us all

Humbly entered this world in door of stall

Out the the fields acting quite CARAMELLO

Where a few of the sheep caring fellows

Awakened by light and angels quite stayed

They decided to go and check out this child.

So toMORO before you get stuck into Christmas lunch

And stop and think when it comes to the CRUNCH

Spend some time in  deep meditation

That we celebrate the Birth of the king of our MARVELLOUS CREATION

I ran this by my wife and she panned it. “Too many words and you lost me”.   So, back to the drawing board.

This time I would use prose. But I set myself the challenge of using all the different types of chocolate in the box. Here is what I came up with..


What I had to work with in a box of Favourites


I would like to tell you about one of my FAVOURITE stories from the Bible.  It’s all about the birth of Jesus

Joseph was told that his wife would have a baby and it would be the son of God.  He was told this by an angel in a DREAM.

When the time was RIPE for Mary to have the baby they had to head to Bethlehem to be counted.

On the journey, so they needed a BOOST.

Joseph said, “Mary, let’s stop! It’s time to rest and have a PICNIC!”

When they finally got to Bethlehem, they had to stay in a stable with some DIARY MILK cows

That very night, baby Jesus was born!

Meanwhile, the shepherds were out minding their sheep being all cara-MELLO.

It was so cold out there that the grass was really CRUNCHIE!

They were really surprised to see some angels who told them to go to Bethlehem and see their new king.

The point is that Christmas is about Jesus and seeing who he is. 

So, don’t FLAKE out and forget.

This CHRISTmas, take some time out, and remember, and DELIGHT that  the very best thing about CHRISTmas is JESUS!

So toMORRO when you are opening presents or watching your parents enjoying some BUBBLY .  Remember that we are celebrating the birth of the Lord of our MARVELLOUS CREATION.


Let the Word do the Work

Let the Word to the Work

Ed. Peter Bolt. Matthais Media, 2015

I don’t think there as a been a single person that God has used in the last 40 years that would rival Phillip Jensen for the effect on evangelical Christianity in Sydney.  As a preacher, writer, trainer, publisher, strategist, pastor and most of all evangelist.  So when Peter Bolt told me he was working on a book for Phillip’s retirement(1) I was intrigued as to what he would produce.

It’s not what I expected.  It’s not a biography.  Phillip is a surprisingly private person and so this is not a huge surprise.  Nor is it the bunch of essays that I have seen in the past to commemorate someone’s retirement, which is what I expected.

It’s…well a bunch of short essay/ reflections from people who have worked with Phillip in one way or another.  Many of them looking at what Phillip taught them when they were growing. And they cover a range of different topics from preaching and pastoring to the DNA of a Mid Year Conference and even thoughts on temperance and alcohol consumption in a church.

All the essays are worth reading and considering.  None of them pretend to be objective.  Some are more reflective that others (e.g. Peter Bolt’s own contribution).

But it got me thinking, why produce a book like this?   Why not a biography?  Why not a set of more objective essays?  Phillip’s answer would be what does the Bible say?

“For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?”  (1 Thessalonians 2:19 ESV)

The best way of seeing whether ministry is fruitful or productive is to look at the people it is producing.  This book is a testament to the people that Phillip’s ministry has produced.  Hence it is exactly the right way to commemorate a milestone of Phillip’s ministry.

If you want to understand why Sydney evangelicalism is the way it is, then this is an important book to read.  If you want to see a good model of ministry then this is an important book to read.

(1) I should point out by ‘retirement’ I mean the ending of his formal ministry at the Sydney Cathedral.  He will of course continue to minister at “Two Ways to Live Ministries”.

Jesus May Not be the Crazy Guy on the Pier

“Jesus is like a crazy guy yelling “I love you” while running down a pier and jumping off”.

I can’t remember who said that.  I think it was a German Liberal like Schweitzer.  The point he was trying to make was that the cross didn’t make sense as an act of love.  You end up with Jesus looking crazy, and the cross should be seen a tragic event that Jesus had no control over.  At least I think I remember that being the point.  Evangelicals like me use the same illustration to demonstrate that the cross doesn’t make sense until you look at sin.  Jesus would seem crazy heading to his own death as an act of love without it being as a substitution.

But I really don’t like it as an illustration.  It all doesn’t make sense.  That is, until recently…

I was listening to someone else use the illustration recently.  He pointed out that the problem with the illustration is that it assumes the the point of view is on the pier.  Or to put it another way, it assumes the person that Jesus is calling “I love you” to is standing on the pier.  If that is the case, then Jesus would seem like a crazy person.

But what if the person was not on the pier?

What if the person, the point of view, was in the water, drowning?  This changes it all.  Someone coming to rescue them as an act of love.  Someone so identifying with them that they would come and dive in the water to rescue them.

Then I worked out that the problem with the illustration is that we assume we are on the pier, we are safe.  We don’t need rescuing.  But the Bible points out that we do.  It also points out that our rescuer comes because he loves us.

Advice for Writing/ Studying/ Getting Stuff Done

Recently I had to spend some extended time writing talks.  At the moment, focus is not one of my strengths so facing a week of getting things done was a little daunting.  But I also realise it is something I need to work on as I need to be a better steward of my time.  So, here are my top ten rules for getting focussed and getting things done:

  1. Turn off Social Media.
  2. Turn OFF Social Media.  (Feel free to make any Brad Pitt references here). It really does distract your focus.  If you have the same amount of self discipline in this area as I do (none) then I recommend Self Control for a Mac and leave your phone in another room.  This also helps with texts and calls.
  3. Get ON to Pomodoro.  Pomodoro is a technique that breaks your time into 25 min blocks with 5 minutes rest.  Knowing you only have 25 minutes to write say 500 words (my average) means you get on with the task.  There are different apps available or you can buy a timer from Coles.
  4. Get off Social Media on your 5 min rest.  (Some of the more astute among you are probably sensing a theme at this point).  The temptation to get on Facebook for 5 mins is strong, but resist.  It will only break your focus and its not really a rest.  In fact, if you write on a computer like 99.9% of the world then get off screen time for the 5 min rest time.  This was some advice given to me on Facebook and it was the best advice I was given (ironic, huh?).
  5. Use your 5 minute rest for other things.  It’s best to get out of the room you are working in if you can.  I did pushups, read a Psalm, read a book (not online), made calls and checked my texts from the phone in the other room, rang a friend I hadn’t spoken to for a while (I’m a guy so these calls tend to be short), clean my desk, make a coffee.
  6. Plan your work and work your plan.  Use the first and last parts of each Pomodoro to work out what you are doing and why.  Why is this the next most important thing for you to do. And then stick to your plan.
  7. Be disciplined in the 5 min break.  The temptation is to keep going when you are on a roll, but you are doing a marathon and not a sprint.  You need to stick to the plan.
  8. Do some physical exercise.  Martial arts originally came from Buddhist Monks who needed to keep their minds sharp and so they developed exercises that would become awesome for action movies centuries later (truish story from the internet).  But the point is the same.  You need to do something with your body while you are working your mind.  Since I am not the best at this I use the 7 minute intense exercise routine.  You can find an app for that.  Ideally at the start of the day.  Think of it as an investment in focus.
  9. A new location can give fresh results.  Working in cafe or outside means you can have less distractions and new location really does change your focus a bit.  A friend of mine does all his sermon prep in his study but writes in the final talk in a cafe for this reason.  Also it means you have less access to Wifi and see rules 1 and 2.
  10.  If you are getting stuck on a section, move onto one that you can work on.  Momentum is important and keep it going for as long as you can.  When you have momentum then you can come back to the tough section with more force and it usually ‘breaks’.
  11. Get off Social Media.  If you use it, you may have forgotten that by now.  At least you will have forgotten that there were only meant to be 10 rules!

Mission: Part 1

I have really wanted to blog our experience of re-engineering but have found the process of putting something down in writing really hard because there is so much going on and so many loose ends at this point of time.  So it is important to read this as my personal reflections rather than the community’s experience.</p

Over the last couple of weeks we have tried to sharpen our mission focus.  We started by asking the theological question, “does the church have a mission?”.  The answer is yes, but the issue that I don’t think we have resolved is how much is church for the edification saints and how much is for mission.  For the me the answer is ‘yes’.  The gospel changes everything and so as part of the edification of the saints it changes the way we see the world and the way we see people who don’t follow Jesus, and the culture around us that doesn’t follow Jesus.  Mature disciples are fruitful in maturity and obedience, but also in multiplication.

I think there is a practical reality of having a mission focus to bring community together around that focus and that is something we have not had in the past.  The reason for that is that we have left the evangelistic initiatives in the Gospel Communities.  This changes a lot of things.

The main question we have been looking at is whether we should move location to Parramatta or stay in the Macquarie area.  This raised some good and big issues for us, but to cut a long story short we decided that we were not healthy enough as a church to make the big risk change to move to Parramatta.  Parramatta would have been a great mission field for us if we had the resources, and may well be again in the future.
We have decided not to move to Parramatta but remain in the Macquarie area

Staying in Macquarie will mean some changes, but we need to work out what they are soon.  It is one thing to have an area to work in, but this is such a diverse area that we need to focus even more sharply here.  Again this is a discussion that is not yet finished.

This has also left us with the big question of how do we define a healthy church?  When will we be strong enough to make big, risky changes like that?  And that’s what we need to discuss next week…


One of the first things we did was work out some values.  This is what what we are doing, it is how will we do what we are doing.
I think this was an important step to take early on.  We needed to define what was important before we decided what was important.  So here are our values at the moment – as we work through the re-engineering process, there may be more that are added.
  • Everything we do needs to be Gospel centred. 
  • Therefore we need to know WHY we are doing what we are doing.  It’s not enough to think X is a good thing to do, we need to be able to answer why is it a good thing to do
  • What we can do we will do well, what we can’t do we won’t try and do those we can’t.  The point here is that we don’t want to end up feeling guilty about trying to do everything.  We can do some things really well and rather than getting distracted by trying to do every thing, we are going to aim to do those things well.
  • Under promise, over deliver.  This is a value we want to hold as a community and as individuals.  Simply, its about being faithful to what we do.  We want to be able to say “I will do this” and mean it as a minimum.  Where we aren’t able to do fulfil what we have promised we need to own it and say sorry.
  • Every member ministry.  We are aiming for every member of the body to be able to do minister.
  • We aren’t afraid of failure.  Failing in church is not the same as failing in salvation.  We will try some thing and fail at it rather than not try something at all.
  • In terms of leadership will be clear about who makes the decisions.  This means applying the S formula of making decisions.  S1 – I will make the decision without input.  S2 – I will make the decision with input from key stakeholders.  S3 – A delegate will make the decision with input from key stake holders.  S4 – A delegate will make the decision without input.
  • The aim is not to compete with other ministries but to find other problems and solve them.
As we work through the re-eneginnering process we may need to come back and revisit the values from time to time, adding new ones or rephrasing these ones.

Why Re-Engineering

Over the next several months, Soma is planning to Re-engineer.  It will be a hard but important process and to help Soma people keep up with what we are doing and for people who may be interested, I will be blogging about it as we go so you can see the process.

Why are we re-engineering?  Over the last couple of years we have lost our way a bit.  As a church we have been through some pretty rough times.  Some people have left because it has been too hard.  To be honest there are times I have wanted to follow them!  But Sydney is a big city and it needs different churches to reach different people.  Some of those people are going to walk into a church building and ask who Jesus is.  Most won’t.  As a church we want to reach those who won’t walk into a building and this means doing church differently.  But we have lost our way a little in seeking to do that.
This is not to say there are some things we are doing well.  We are.  But the point is that there are some core things we have lost the idea of WHY are we doing this as opposed to that.
Re-engineering involves stopping what we are doing and asking some fundamental questions about our DNA as an organisation.  It’s basically a stop and re-plant.
Here are some symptoms:
  • We have lost who we are trying to reach.
  • We have lost our sense of “every member ministry”.
  • We are looking a lot like other churches, (so why not pack up and leave it to them?).
So the plan is to look at
  1. Church Structure – what are we doing
  2. Church Culture – who are we when we are doing it?
  3. Church Marks – what is church?
But in the reverse order.  Most people think of church in the order I have listed.  But the priority of the New Testament seems to be the other way around.  We are obsessed with how the church should run and yet if you look at the book of Ephesians for example, the priority there is the culture of the church.
Why Church “marks” rather than defining a church?  Firstly, defining a church is actually harder than it looks.  There is always an exception somewhere.  So it is, in my opinion, easier to look for some key marks of the church. Secondly, I think this works better for what we want to do.  What is the not negotiables for what we shouldn’t change when it comes to church.  It is after God’s church, not ours.  More on this to come…