The
Inspiration
Project

WITH BRENDAN CORR

GUEST Stephen O'Doherty

Stephen O'Doherty
background image

Episode 43

Stephen O’Doherty: Episode Description

On this episode of The Inspiration Project, Brendan Corr talks to Broadcaster and commentator Stephen O’Doherty about why you can’t fake compassion, the importance of God’s compassion towards us, being aware of his talents for music and communication early in life, how God remade Stephen in his early 20s and why people need to communicate with a more authentic voice.

Among other things Stephen shares:

  • What led Stephen to his early awareness of his talents for music and communication.
  • Why you’ve got to find your own voice in the world.
  • Why Stephen believes you can’t fake compassion.
  • The importance of God’s compassion towards us.
  • Why people need to communicate with an authentic voice.
  • How faith intervened in Stephen’s life and career.
  • How God remade Stephen in his 20s.

Stephen O’Doherty: Episode Transcript

Sponsor Announcement
This podcast is sponsored by Australian Christian College, a network of schools committed to student well-being, character development, and academic improvement.

Introduction
Welcome to The Inspiration Project, where well-known Christians share their stories to inspire young people in their faith and life. Here’s your host, Brendan Corr.

Brendan Corr
Good morning, everybody. Welcome to another episode of The Inspiration Project podcast. We hope that you’re enjoying the conversations that we’re bringing to you of prominent Christians who have been able to bring their faith into the practice of their business life and their professional life. This morning we welcome Mr. Stephen O’Doherty behind the microphone. Mr. O’Doherty started work as a journalist and a broadcaster, firstly in radio and then into other areas of the media. He was elected to Parliament in 1992, served on the front bench in the portfolios of education and community services and was shadow treasurer before making another change in career. In 2002, Stephen became the inaugural CEO of Christian Schools Australia, a national peak body representing schools of independent faith, and stepped away from that back into the area of Christian media. He now is the chairman of Hope Media, the not-for-profit organisation that operates Hope 103.2 in Sydney and other radio stations in other capital cities. He’s also been heavily involved in music throughout his career. Stephen, it’s absolutely delightful to welcome you to our podcast. How are you doing?

Stephen O’Doherty
How wonderful to catch up with you again, my dear friend, Brendan.

Brendan Corr
Thank you. It’s great to see you too. That’s a busy life that you’ve lived, Stephen. It’s taken you into some very varied and diverse backgrounds. Was there any one of those that stood out to you as your sweet spot?

Stephen O’Doherty
I thought you were going to ask me if there was any planning involved. The answer to that is that if there was any planning that was involved, it was on God’s part, not mine. Oh gee, the sweet spots, Brendan, there have been so many in a way. I was just reflecting the other day through all of the things that I’ve done, there have been two constants, I think, and the first constant, since I developed a faith, since I came to faith in my mid-twenties, the constant has been my faith in God, my love of God, my desire to follow Jesus. The second constant all the way through my life has been music, and without those two things, I think I would’ve been lost in a way. So, that’s an encouragement to find the sweet spot. When I was just leaving school, I felt that I had two choices, and I thought they were bifurcating, that is, they could go one way or the other, but not both. I remember thinking it through. I loved the idea of continuing in music. I was a very active musician at school and I wanted to continue doing that. And the second was this just burning passion to be on radio, to be a radio broadcaster. And weighing those two things up, I felt I could probably do music as a hobby, but develop broadcasting as a career, and both of those things have turned out to be true. Yeah, I mean, the encouragement there I think, Brendan, people listening to us now, find the thing that you’re passionate about, and make decisions consistent with allowing God to use those talents that he’s given you in those areas. You may not acknowledge him in your life. I certainly didn’t when I was making these big decisions in my late teens, early twenties. But nevertheless, that’s a good way to go. He’s made you in a certain way. Whether you acknowledge Him or not, you’re made in a certain way, and if you can follow those passions. You have to be realistic - I was never going to be an astronaut. I don’t know. I can’t stand heights and I get seasick, so I’m never going to be an astronaut, but even if I was passionate about it, you have to be realistic. But I did have skills for communication, I did have skills for music, and I was able to build both of those into not just a career, but into a way of life, into a way of being that kept me centred and grounded.

Brendan Corr
That’s interesting. I’d love to come back to that notion of the difference or the qualification of a career in a way of being in the world. That’s a great point I’ll visit again. You spoke about having an early awareness of these two dimensions of your makeup, music and communication. What were the things that were happening for you as a young guy that made you aware these were your areas of talent or ability?

Stephen O’Doherty
Well, at school, I suppose in a way. It’s a good question, Brendan. I’m glad you’ve asked it because you don’t get to dwell on these things very often, other than in the hands of a careful listener like you. At school, looking back, I think teachers and my parents, absolutely, certainly my parents encouraged me in those things where they could see I had a passion. So, it seems to me that I was always in some form or another given upfront roles at school. I was very often a class leader or a school leader or on the school council, those kinds of things. My dad took me to Toastmasters, an organisation that still exists today, they help people to understand not just how to make speeches or how to be a public speaker, but they actually teach people meeting procedures, how to chair a meeting. It’s very useful for people who go into business, and I’ve caught up with Toastmaster clubs over the years. I was never a member, but dad took me along when he went, and that was really interesting. I really enjoyed the ad lib competitions and went in a number of speech competitions. You say that, and then people go, “Oh, really?” For me, absolutely petrified going on to stage and being given a topic five minutes beforehand and asked to make an ad lib speech for five minutes about it, absolutely terrified, but what an exhilarating experience when it comes off. The same thing with music. I had been encouraged as a musician at school. At some stage in Year 5, bizarrely, I don’t know, we had an older teacher, a much older man who was into voice speaking choirs. This is a whole choir of people that just speak through a poem, The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes, and he would stand at the front and he would conduct the class speaking a poem. I must have mimicked him in a good way because then he said to me, “Oh, come and conduct this one, Stephen.” So, I conducted Year 5 in this poem. Well, I mean, the irony of that is that years later, in fact, from the age of about 15, I started conducting a concert band. I was playing in a concert band, someone had given me a clarinet and said, “Here, play this,” and I conduct bands to this very day, and it’s a long time ago, Brendan.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. Well, longer than we might be comfortable with, but still fresh in the memory it seems, Stephen. I’ll put my hand up also. The idea that obviously you had this natural ability with words, but your inclination was to the spoken word rather than the written word. Do you see a difference between those forms of verbal communication, speaking and writing, or are they just variations of the same thing?

Stephen O’Doherty
Yeah, absolutely, of course. Yes, you’ve got to find your voice, and if you’re writing for yourself in the first person, you have to find your written voice, and if you are speaking, you need to find your authentic spoken voice in passing if you’re a student of writing. If you’re writing for somebody else, let’s say you’re writing a speech for someone else to deliver, or if you’re writing a narrative in a third person, find their voice, their authentic voice, but always remember the listener, and the listener and the reader, they may be the same person, but they’re receiving what you’re communicating in a different way. I’ve always been the same. I never write or speak without hearing the imaginary voice of the person who’s receiving the message. That sounds a little crazy perhaps, but it’s not at all crazy. It is the primary skill of public speaking, to be able to stand here in front of an audience and look them in the eye and hear what they’re saying to you in their head. When you can see the audience, you’re picking up all those nonverbal cues, whether or not they throw things at you, you get to know when they’re not really receiving your message. I was addressing a political meeting once in a school full of teacher and education unionists. It was a public school, and the opposition, I was the shadow minister for education at the time and a Liberal, and they didn’t like the Liberals very much in those days because of something that happened well before I was in the parliament, the Terry Metherell years. You’ll remember those.

Brendan Corr
I do.

Stephen O’Doherty
And at the back of the room, people were hissing, and I just remember thinking, “That’s just so juvenile and uncouth.” If you want to disagree, just say I disagree, but don’t stand in the back of the room going “hiss”. It’s pathetic. So, I actually called them out on it. I said, “I can hear you hissing at the back. What’s your problem? Let me address what I think is your issue.” Now, when you understand someone else’s argument, you can address what they’re thinking. Communication is not just saying something, but is something that is being received. If it hasn’t been received in the way you intended, then you’ve not communicated well.

Brendan Corr
Yes, that’s good. So when you’re talking about hearing the audience, hearing the receptor, that’s what you’re conscious of doing, what is this evoking in their understanding, in the audience’s understanding.

Stephen O’Doherty
If you can touch that point, or then of course, the next level is to say, “What I want to evoke is sympathy, understanding, knowledge,” decide what’s the purpose of this piece of communication. For me, often it’s encouragement actually. It just seems over the years, the things I’ve been asked to do have often been an encouragement. Especially as a member of parliament, you go into a situation where people want you to address them and they don’t want to know about you. What they want you to say is, “I can’t imagine what it’s been like this past six months when you faced this terrible situation of bushfires, floods, your parents dying. I can’t imagine what that’s like, but all I can say is whatever you’re feeling at the moment, I just want to stand with you in the silence and acknowledge the pain.” Find a way to reach out, and suddenly they’re with you because they know that you’re compassionate about them. Now, here’s the thing, I don’t think you can fake compassion. Some very skilled people might be able to, but you can usually see through it, and I don’t think I would’ve ever been, I wouldn’t have been a member of parliament, but for the fact that I became a Christian. I don’t think I would’ve been a very skilled radio broadcaster, but for the fact that I became a Christian, and people used to talk of me as being a radio broadcaster that had real warmth and empathy, as well as being pretty tough as an interviewer, but I don’t think any of that really flowed. Well, I had ability which I now think God gave me, but it didn’t really flow until I learned to understand myself in God’s eyes, to let go of a normal fear you have as a person growing up in the world, wondering how other people are judging you, and to process that through the lens of there’s nothing that I can do that God won’t forgive, and there’s no fear that I can’t face other than that he has already given me the ability to overcome, and especially that I now know who I am constructed to be because I know who made me and what purpose he made me for.

Brendan Corr
You’re alluding, maybe even more than alluding, articulating a difference between communicating an image, a projection, and communicating from a sense of genuine, authentic self-awareness, self knowledge, the profound difference between those things of trying to control what people are receiving of your personality, your identity, and the strength, the power that can come from relaxing into who God has made you to be. Has that been part of your experience?

Stephen O’Doherty
Very much so, yes. Absolutely right, Brendan. You are the same, if I may say. You communicate authentically who you are out of your own sense of self and willingness to be real and authentic and vulnerable in front of people. But yes, one of the reasons I left politics was that it does really test your authenticity in front of people because I mean, part of the job then, especially if you’re a shadow minister, you’re a front bencher, you’re selling the brand of ‘elect us next time’. This mob is hopeless, elect us next time. But the experience of politics has been played very tribally in Australia. Our tribe is always right. Their tribe is always wrong. Everything they do is wrong. It has to be wrong. It’s all the government’s fault. My kids used to have this saying when they were very little. I left politics when our oldest was still just in middle school. So, they used to run around the house knowing exactly what it was that I would say, “Oh, it’s all the government’s fault.” We used to run around and say “Blah, blah, blah, it’s all the government’s fault. It’s all the government’s fault.” And that’s the message you have to sell. But I was talking about authenticity. If that’s not actually true, then you can’t sell it. You can’t fatten the pig on market day. One of the great doyens of the Liberal party, a true gentleman, an extraordinary academic, a lovely, gentle man with incredible principles, Sir John Carrick, his great saying was,”You can’t fatten the pig on market day.” John Howard used it all the time as well. It’s no use turning up on the day and saying, “Here we are. We’re so much better than the other lot.” You’ve got to build your credibility and your credentials, and so, particularly when I was in. Oh, well, in all the portfolios I held, really, but I think the portfolio I spend most time in was education, and so, talking to audiences of teachers and parents, they’re very, very knowledgeable about what is going on in their world, and you can’t just turn up and say, “Yep, I’m now the great expert.” What you have to do is listen, and then you have to go back. And so, if I spoke about education in the 6:00 AM morning news calls, people don’t know what they’re, mostly the ministers or shadow ministers’ story for that day would start at 5:30, 6 o’clock, the media would ring them or they would ring the media and you’d often say, “Hi, it’s Stephen O’Doherty here. I’ve got an angle for you on that story on the front page of The Herald or the blah, blah, blah. Are you ready?” They’d go, “Rolling,” and you give them your 30 seconds. You go, “You got that?” And they go, “Yep.” You go, “Ah, have a nice day. Thanks,” bing, then it’s on the next one. “Hello.”

Brendan Corr
Wow.

Stephen O’Doherty
When you’re doing it, when it’s that pressured, when it’s on every day, when it’s every, and you’re off. Georgina laughed at me because she said, “I can remember you fast asleep. The phone rang. It was before 6:00. You picked up the phone, sat on the edge of the bed and went, ‘It’s all the government’s fault. Got it? Thanks. Bye.‘” She said, “And then you went back to sleep.” When you’re that on, you actually have to know, you have to own it, and you can’t own knowledge of a thing without asking the people involved in the thing. So, authenticity comes from a really genuine heart in getting to know people and like people, and pardon me, hear their concerns. Then you get to process. Then you get conflicting advice. You’ve got to process and weigh things, and that’s when judgement comes in. At a certain point, you’ve got to find the judgement point where you develop your own voice, but it’s informed by the others you’ve heard.

Brendan Corr
Indeed.

Stephen O’Doherty
And you’ve got to really love people. I was asked once, when I was a very young Christian, and at that time still in radio broadcasting, I was asked to go and address a council of bishops. I won’t say where or which, but a council of bishops. They were doing a workshop on communication skills which I thought was very interesting. You’re a bishop. Now you’ve got to learn about communicating.

Brendan Corr
That was their lifehood.

Stephen O’Doherty
And one of them looked at me and said, “How do you deal with really difficult people, people who you just.” And I looked at them, I said, “I just think you got to love them.”

Brendan Corr
Great answer. That’s a beautiful thing. Stephen, let me ask you, you mentioned a little earlier that you don’t think you would’ve gone into some of the careers that you did and you certainly wouldn’t have been as effective in them, either broadcasting or as a parliamentarian, if you hadn’t become a Christian, and that happened in around your early mid-twenties. Would you be willing to share with us how that happened? How did a young guy with these gifts and interests and commitment to a career, how did faith intrude into your life?

Stephen O’Doherty
Intrude, that’s a very good word. You’ve met my intrusion because I’m married to her now and have been for 30-plus years. If you’d known me in my early twenties, which thankfully you didn’t, I was a young man in a hurry. I’d been given very early success. In my early twenties, I was given the opportunity to host the drive time programme on 2GB, and I’d started in Sydney Radio at the age of 20 as a cadet journalist at another radio station, moved across to 2GB to be in their newsroom, and within 12 months, they’d ask me to take on the drive time shift. The sort of thing you would hope to do by the time you’re in your mid-thirties or forties. And yet, here I was, and not only that, the station had become Australia’s first news talk station. I suppose we have stations a bit like that today. It was part personality, let’s say shock jock, well, let’s not, and a lot of good journalism behind it, so a really solid newsroom. The investment that Fairfax who owned 2GB then made into journalism in radio was extraordinary. I doubt we’ll see it again in commercial radio. So, we had a huge newsroom, a well-credentialed newsroom. Macquarie National News meant something. I grieved when in the very recent times because of the takeover by Nine, they ditched the name Macquarie National News. That name had been around since the early part of the 20th century, the first half of the 20th century. Macquarie National News meant something. Now, it doesn’t exist anymore.

Brendan Corr
Sad.

Stephen O’Doherty:

But they had Macquarie National News and they had a current affairs team, and the current affairs team was involved in doing two half-hour shows, 1230 Report, 530 Report, and then that grew into a thing called the Sundown Rundown which I hosted.** **I also hosted The 1230 Report, a national programme, yeah. So, Sundown Rundown was all talk. Now, we didn’t play any music at all. At all, not a single track, first station in the country to do so, and it was all about journalism. It was going to be all about talk news, current affairs opinion, lots of people ringing in, lots of ringing out to get interviews directly with the newsmakers, and our metric was to write the stories that would be in the paper the next day on the radio that afternoon which we did time and time and time again. We had people everywhere. It was just fantastic, a really wonderful experience.

Brendan Corr
Hugely successful.

Stephen O’Doherty
And this was me in my twenties. You’ve got to try to be fairly out there and a bit self-assured, well, very self-assured. So, you invest, like a lot of young men and women, I suppose, and maybe a lot of older ones too, you invest in your own importance and maintaining your importance, image, prestige, money, big toys, cars, lifestyle, long lunches. Maintaining that is part of maintaining your self-worth. But in my twenties, a long-term relationship broke down and I was pretty devastated by that, and then the ratings had gone up, they were going down again. It’s an industry in which people are very often, especially at that level, are very often vulnerable to people knocking them off. The phrase “don’t take a holiday in radio” is a true maxim because when you come back they will have given your job to someone else. So, you flog yourself to death, you invest in yourself, when things take a downturn and all of that, the fabulous career and the relationships fall down, what’s left? Well, for me it was an empty shell. That was the first midlife crisis. There have been a couple of others. They’re pretty passé these days. I don’t make light of it, Brendan, but I once said to a group of people, actually it was a group of teachers in Queensland, I addressed a couple thousand teachers in Queensland once, and I just, I was in a really depressed state that day because of things that were going on. I looked out at this audience, and I said to them, “Thank goodness you’re in Christian education because whatever else you teach these kids, they’ve got to know that there will be crises in their life. There will be down days, there will be days when they don’t know where the strength will come from to take the next breath. But if you teach them, and you can teach them Maths, Science, English, all those things matter. Yeah, they matter. But if they leave school knowing this, God loves them, he’s made them for a purpose, he cares, he sees them, and that you see them too,” I said, “if they leave school knowing that, then that might be the most significant thing you ever do for these kids.” I still think that’s true. And so, I was there in my twenties, and then God, by the greatness of God, I met and started to fall in love with Georgina. We both played music together in a band. That was an opportunity for us to see each other, to meet. And one day, I remember I saw her, I’d known her, but one day I saw her for the first time. You know what that’s like to just see someone?

Brendan Corr
Yeah.

Stephen O’Doherty
And the funny thing about her though, Brendan, she was finalising her PhD in science. It didn’t conform to any of the norms that I had for Christians. I didn’t think a Christian could be a scientist, for instance. I’m sure you and your students encounter that all the time and talk about what that’s about. I know, because you and I have talked about it.

Brendan Corr
Yeah.

Stephen O’Doherty
So, she didn’t conform to that, and yet she was lovely, beautiful, wonderful, had skills, and the most extraordinary thing about her was she didn’t care about me for any of these other things. Yeah, she actually was a listener to my show, but that wasn’t the thing.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, yeah.

Stephen O’Doherty
For some reason, she started to love me for some other reason, and our relationship became personal and caring to the point where. Because I was still at that stage a very avowed atheist. Did I mention that?

Brendan Corr
No.

Stephen O’Doherty
I grew up, I came out of my teenage years wanting nothing to do with God. Actually, I had decided the matter.

Brendan Corr
Wow.

Stephen O’Doherty
I was 20. I knew what was going on in the world. There was no God. Of course there wasn’t a God. I’d settled it. I’m 20 and I know everything. And that never happens, does it?

Brendan Corr
No.

Stephen O’Doherty
That never happens. So, she challenged that. She challenged everything just by getting through to my heart, and for those listening on radio, I’m pointing now to my heart, and that was a conundrum. So, it got to the point where our relationship was getting more serious, so serious that she was very concerned that she shouldn’t be setting herself up to spend her life with somebody who didn’t share her first love which was Jesus Christ, and still is. So, she said to me after Bible study, she said, “I fainted going out to the car after Bible study.” This was how intense the emotion was. And her Bible study friends, half of them were saying, “Don’t see him ever again,” and half of them were saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, try to get him to church.” So, there was a lot going on. They were praying. There was this, it was a spiritual maelstrom, and I’m just in the centre of it, unaware of most of it. So, she rang me up and she said, “I can’t. I’m sorry.” It was Friday. “And what are you going to do on the weekend?” “No, I can’t see you.” Bear in mind this was pre-internet, pre-Facebook, pre-Instagram. This was telephone. This was pre-mobile phones. So, she said, “I can’t see you again, ever.” I said, “Oh yeah, look, that’s okay. We’ll talk about it tomorrow.” She said, “No, no, no. You don’t get it. I don’t want be in the same room as you again. I can’t speak to you again. I don’t want to be with you again.” “Why not?” This was devastating. “Well,” she said, “because I think that if I’m with you, I’m going to be tempted to give it all away, my faith in Jesus. That’s how much I care about you. But I care about Jesus more.” She said, I remember her saying, “This doesn’t make any sense to me right now. All I know is that I’ve always trusted God and he’s always come through for me, and I’m going to trust him on this occasion. And as hard as it seems, I think it’s best that we don’t see each other.”

Brendan Corr
Wow, Stephen.

Stephen O’Doherty
“And I wish you well. I’ll pray for you,” whatever. Oh, well, that was very difficult to hear. In response, I did something that was unusual for an atheist, I prayed to God, and I remember praying, “Dear God.” So, just imagine the scene, and you’ve got to imagine this, at that time, being young and ambitious, when they said, “Our breakfast announcer is away at the moment. Can you do breakfast and drive time?” or maybe I offered. Come to think of it, I probably offered. “We need you to do breakfast and drive time.” “Yes, I’ll do it, whatever.” I was doing the breakfast programme starting work at 4:00. I was getting off air at 9:00. I was going to a hotel in the city and sleeping for a few hours, coming back to the office, and getting back on air at 4:00 PM and getting off air at 7:00 PM and then going home, rinse and repeat for three weeks. This came in the middle of that period. It was a Friday, and I had one shift left to do that that week, and I just finished the breakfast programme, and we had this phone call. So, I ended up at the Southern Cross Hotel in the city, Goldman Street, and supposed to be grabbing some sleep, but I sat on the edge of the bed and I looked through the drawer of the bed and there was a Gideon’s Bible.

Brendan Corr
Wow.

Stephen O’Doherty
Bless them. And I opened it up just randomly, and when you haven’t read the Bible ever, well, at Sunday school, and you open up your Bible and you go, “Oh, I don’t know, what is this? Where do you start?” So, I put it down again, and I met some Gideons once, they said, “You should have opened the front page. It’s all these Bible helps.” I didn’t know that. So, instead I just put the bible down, I went to the source, and I said, “Dear God, as you know, I don’t believe in you.” What a statement, man oh man. “As you know, I don’t believe in you.” So, I’m talking to someone who I’ve said doesn’t even exist. Prayer, that’s rubbish. That’s talking to no one. So, I’m sitting on the edge of the bed saying to this no one who’s not listening, “As you know, I don’t believe in you.” But not only is he listening, but he’s also all powerful.

Brendan Corr
Amazing.

Stephen O’Doherty
I mean, in that moment, I’d gone, “I’m just in. I need help. Who else can I turn to? No one else knows me except maybe God, the God who doesn’t exist.” Anyway, I prayed for Georgina, actually. I didn’t pray for me. I prayed for her. And it was a very odd moment and this word, it was so. I was glad there was no one else there. And then the next day she rang me up, she said, “Oh, I’ve been talking to our minister about this situation.” I said, “Oh yeah. What did he say?” She said, “He said, ‘Bring him in for a chat.‘” That seemed reasonable because this kept open the prospect of the relationship.

So, I went to see the guy who was a listener to my programme and just delighted in trying to interview me-

Brendan Corr
Oh wow.

Stephen O’Doherty
With a tough line, “If I could prove to you that God exists, would you have to give up your avowed atheism?” “Well, you can’t prove it.” “No, I didn’t say that. If I could prove it, if it could be proven, would you have to give up?” “Well, of course, if it could be proven, but it can’t.” He said, “All right then, you’re not an atheist. You must be agnostic.” So, he’s moved me.

Brendan Corr
That’s great.

Stephen O’Doherty
You know the angled scale where we talk about people who are far away and then come closer. He’s moved me from a 12 to a seven right there at that moment. Oh, he was a delightful man, Silas Horton, his name was. So, in settlement of this matter, I decided, I agreed that I would attend church on a Sunday evening, the youth service, and Georgina found me a book of dots so that I could sing the songs. Being musicians, I felt very awkward standing in a church. What is that? Oh, I don’t know any of it. I love music, but this wasn’t exactly music as I knew it. This was very strange music with people singing, and she found me the dots so I could sing, sight-sing. I loved sight-singing. It’s great, great discipline. Well, that made me feel comfortable. What’s the thing, young woman, what’s the thing, young man that will help your partner who’s unsaved feel comfortable when you take them to church? Find that thing and do that.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, good.

Stephen O’Doherty
And careful stewardship on Silas’s part, I eventually was to accept Jesus as my saviour.

Brendan Corr
Amazing.

Stephen O’Doherty
I stood forward after a communion service. At the end of communion service was always that challenge that comes from Corinthians somewhere or other Paul, he says, “You need to leave everything, leave your baggage behind and step forward and be ready to take on a new life, take on a new life, trusting only in God.” And the movie, The Mission, had been on at that time. Jeremy Irons, a man with a lot of burdens, a priest sent into the mountains to evangelise a tribe of native Caribbeans, I think. He’s carrying his armour. He’d been a soldier, hadn’t he, and he’s carrying his armour in a sack on his back. Jeremy Irons is climbing up this waterfall, and at one point, all of the armour in the sack falls, and there’s this wonderful shot of the armour, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang as it goes down the waterfall and disappears. These were his burdens being carried away.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, yeah.

Stephen O’Doherty
I felt exactly like that-

Brendan Corr
Wow.

Stephen O’Doherty
Brendan, the night that I stood up and walked forward as an atheist, a public figure, a broadcaster who everybody in the congregation knew, stepped forward, and took communion. Everyone’s going, “Ah. Look at him. Oh, isn’t that the guy? Isn’t that that guy?” Extraordinary. And then afterwards, the minister asked me, he said, “Oh, I noticed that you took communion tonight.” “Yes. Is that okay?” “Yes, that’s perfectly okay. Just wondering if you’d like to talk a bit more about that.” Wonderful. Year or so later, 18 months later, I don’t know, Georgina and I were married and it was because God had remade me.

Brendan Corr
Amen. Oh, that’s wonderful. It’s a beautiful story, Stephen, told beautifully. We got to that point by saying it was that decision that changed what you did, moving from broadcast into parliament, and it changed the way you did parliament. What were the things that you think were different? What changed about you being a broadcaster, being a public servant in the parliament because of your faith?

Stephen O’Doherty
It hadn’t been my plan to go to parliament.

Brendan Corr
Right.

Stephen O’Doherty
Why would you want to do that? Seriously?

Brendan Corr
So, what prompted you? What brought that about?

Stephen O’Doherty
Well, it was that, your question. Your question begs the answer. The fact was I’d felt, from the moment I became a Christian, I just had to work out what it was that God now wanted me to do, and I said to this minister, and to Georgina, “What should I do? Should I go and be a missionary somewhere?” And Silas very wisely said, “Well, were you when God called you?” I said, “Well, I was a broadcaster. You know I’m a broadcaster, Silas.” “So, why can’t you be a broadcaster for Christ? Why can’t you be a Christian broadcaster?” Well, yeah, but I understood that the worlds that I was living in were completely intersecting lines. They don’t converge easily. I saw a documentary the other day about space. Apparently parallel lines converge eventually in space, but you’d know about that as a science teacher. So, anyway, the worlds of commercial media and Christianity don’t converge easily.

Brendan Corr
No

Stephen O’Doherty
You generally keep your faith and your professional life in separate domains. At least that’s what we’re taught to believe. I now think, and I think this goes to a question you anticipated earlier, I think until you find your vocation, I spoke earlier about your voice, vocation and voice are the same. Aren’t they? Is that right?

Brendan Corr
Yes.

Stephen O’Doherty
I think that’s right.

Brendan Corr
It’s the call upon your life.

Stephen O’Doherty
Yes, that’s right. It is, voice and vocation are the same. Until you find that, you don’t know how to do the things you’re asked to do. You can be a broadcaster, you can be a journalist, you can be a scientist, a mathematician, you can be a clerk, you can be a carer, you can be a firefighter, you can be a father or mother, but until you’ve found the calling in those occupations, I think you’ll struggle. You’ll struggle. You’ll have struggled anyway, but I think you’ll struggle to understand what’s at the centre of it. So, I had to work out then what could be at the centre of being a broadcaster and also speak Christianly, and I tried doing that, and I read some really good books and I asked everybody I knew, every Christian I knew was in a profession, doctors, lawyers, lots of them about their profession. Some of them said, “Oh, it’s just tent making. That’s all it is. It’s something you do to be in the world, but your real thing is Christian souls.” But I don’t think that’s enough. I have reached the age of 60. I’m old enough to say it. I don’t think that’s enough. It’s important. It’s a very, very important thing, and as Christians, it is an essential aspect of our faith that we share it that we want people to come to know God’s saving grace through Jesus for themselves. So, that’s essential. Let’s not get that wrong. But you also want to live in a way that makes a difference Christianly. What do I mean by that? It makes a difference in this world so that it becomes a little bit easier for people to find Jesus.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s good.

Stephen O’Doherty
So, then it becomes a bit easier for people to live the flourishing lives that God intended for us to have. In the beginning, he put us in a garden and he said, “Here’s a beautiful place. I want you to tend to this. Look after it, care for it.” And we forget that. We forget that it’s about the tending, the caring, the looking after, and the enjoying creation while we’re still on this journey that eventually leads us to the kingdom of God itself once Jesus returns. But in the meantime, we can do a lot of things here. We need to do a lot of things here to make this world a bit more like the kingdom of God that God has intended us to live in, and Jesus says it all the time, He says, “When you go into those towns and villages, talk to them about that kingdom of God. Tell him the kingdom is coming.” Most of his stories, a lot of his stories, many of his stories are about this. What’s the kingdom of God like? Oh, it’s like a man who… Finding your vocation and reflecting kingdom values in the world around us is also an essential aspect of the Christian life, and it took me a while to work that out. I read some great books. There’s a book called Your Work Matters to God. It must’ve been published in the 1980s which is when all the action takes place in this story, some of it. It’s on my shelf there somewhere. Doug Sherman and someone called Hicks, Sherman and Hicks, Your Work Matters to God. The title alone is enough to arrest you. Oh, what I do matters too. Why is that? Well, because he’s made you, he’s given jobs to do, he’s given you work. And when I say work, I don’t mean paid work. It could be volunteer work. He’s giving you things to do that are going to glorify him because you’ll do them in the right spirit by loving others and looking for their welfare, not your own welfare, and by trying to make the world a little better along the way, and that will bring you pleasure because God wants us to do work that pleasures us. He wants us to thrive and flourish. He doesn’t want us to suffer. We will suffer, and when we suffer because of our faith, we know that goes with faith. You’ll be ridiculed. You’ll be laughed at, you’ll be disagreed with. You will be pilloried maybe, but on other occasions, people will come up to you as they’ve. And I’ve been doing all of those things on Twitter and elsewhere. But other people will come up to you, sometimes strangers, and they’ll say, as they did the other day, “Oh, saw you on The Drum the other night. I always go, “Yes,” because often it’s. “I saw you on The Drum the other night.” “Yeah.” “Oh, just want to say thank you.”

Brendan Corr
Yeah, nice.

Stephen O’Doherty
“You speak common sense. You speak for us. You said some good things.” And you realise there are all of these people, Christians, non-Christians, Brendan, I think everybody is drawn instinctively and naturally to the way of God.

Brendan Corr
Yes.

Stephen O’Doherty
Very few people are purely evil, wouldn’t you say?

Brendan Corr
Yes.

Stephen O’Doherty
Most people understand love is better than hate, all the other things that go along with. Well, let’s just go with that one. Most people would rather be loved than hated, I think, as a general idea, a general proposition, and most people recognise a loving way is better than a hate-filled way. If you’re the one that speaks love into a situation or grace into a situation, people will recognise, oh, that’s a bit different. That’s not like those other people that are always angry. That’s a bit different. I might think a bit more about what that bloke said, and if we’re pointing people to the kingdom of God in doing that, wow, that’s what’s important. Now, you can do that in whatever career you happen to find yourself in, any situation in life, amongst the gang of mates, blaming someone else on Instagram. If you’re the one who says, “Hang on a minute, we shouldn’t do that. How would you like it if someone said that about you?” If you’re that person, if you are that girl who stands up for that other girl, rather than piling on with everybody else, sometimes you’ll be misunderstood, but God will know, and you’ll know, and that girl will know, and the love that you’ll feel eventually from reaching out and loving others is like nothing else on earth.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. Stephen, again, a beautifully described proposition about the issue, and I just can’t help but think of the verses of scripture as we’ve been listening to the story of your life, and for you to tell how it is that you found your voice, how you found your vocation. I used the term before the intrusion of faith into your life. I can’t help but think of the passage that David says, ”Let the words of my mouth be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord.” I want to thank you. I want to thank you for 20-odd years of friendship, but more than that, I want to thank you for the things that you’ve done in the name of the Lord. Whether it has been as a broadcaster or as a parliamentarian or the national CEO of the peak body of the schools that I’ve been part of, or whether it’s now as the leader of Hope Media, the things that God has given you to say and to proclaim, it’s been a blessing, and I continue to pray that God will give you strength for the task that he’s called you to. Thank you for your time.

Stephen O’Doherty
Well, thank you my friend. You’re a good friend and you’re a great leader, and I have always enjoyed your company, you know that.

Brendan Corr
Amen.

Stephen O’Doherty
I’m delighted you can be the shepherd of young lives and look after people in the important role that you currently have. So, bless you and your family, and I hope that everyone listening at least will consider God might be breaking through.

Brendan Corr
Amen.

Stephen O'Doherty

About Stephen O'Doherty

Stephen is a broadcaster and commentator with an extensive background in media, public policy, education and the arts. He has significant experience in not for profit leadership and governance. He joined the Board of Hope Media Limited in 2003, succeeding Roger Climpson as Chair in 2005. Stephen began as a broadcast journalist, working in both radio and TV for commercial stations and the ABC. From 1992 – 2002 he served as a Member of the NSW Parliament and was a member of the Shadow Cabinet with portfolios including Education, Disability and Community Services, and Treasury. Stephen was the inaugural CEO of Christian Schools Australia from 2002 – 2017, a role which involved advocacy and support for a growing movement of schools. Stephen chairs the board of Brisbane’s Family Radio Limited (96five) and is a Director of the sector’s peak organisation, Christian Media and Arts Australia (CMAA). Stephen has a passion to see Christian radio continue to thrive as a significant part of Australia’s community broadcasting sector. He represents CMAA on the Community Broadcasting Roundtable. Stephen is a regular panellist on the ABC’s The Drum and Weekend Breakfast and has also appeared on Q&A. An active musician, he is currently Musical Director of the Golden Kangaroos Hornsby Concert Band. Stephen is the Principal of a consultancy providing strategic communications and music services.

Photo of Brendan Corr

About Brendan Corr

Originally a Secondary Science Teacher, Brendan is a graduate of UTS, Deakin and Regent College, Canada. While Deputy Principal at Pacific Hills for 12 years, Brendan also led the NSW Christian Schools Australia registration system. Brendan’s faith is grounded in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a deep knowledge of God’s Word. Married for over 30 years, Brendan and Kim have 4 adult children. On the weekends, Brendan enjoys cycling (but he enjoys coffee with his mates afterwards slightly more).