The Mudzone: After the flood in Brisbane’s West End

Brisbane River is a lazy thing on any normal day. Ryan Street in West End tells another story right now. Houses clearly showing where the surge level got to. For some, this meant the lower floor of their home went under. For others, it meant complete inundation. There are only two realities here: the mudzone and the clean zone.


We are in the mudzone, and it’s chaos. Footpaths stacked with gyprock, insulation, whitegoods, now browned with sticky layer of smelly mud. Appliances, bedding, kitchen utensils, plants, bikes. Last week’s things of life and laughter are now just rubbish for some truck to tip somewhere.


The Night Before Christmas, in a bush on a footpath, looking the worst

Awareness of the indiscriminate nature of this disaster settles quickly. No one deserved this. Those who escaped it cannot thank their pedigree, their piety or profession. Some homes obviously belong to very wealthy people. A few doors away a run down home of someone less well off. Both flooded, they now they share some intense life experience.


In some crazy way this flood has brought people together. In loss and grief. In clean up and recovery. In support and encouragement. People came from everywhere: Tradies from Bribie. People from Logan. The Gap. Wellington Point. A surgeon from Nambour. And then there were ‘the Gernie boys.’ These guys were brilliant, showing up with a industrial strength petrol powered Gernie looking for some serious mud. Actually, it looked like they had bought the Gernie just so they could help with the clean up. It would have been a considerable financial outlay, but I think they were happy to do it just so they could help someone they didn’t know.

A few guys brought a barbecue in and just started cooking sausages for volunteers. A woman stops her car. There are eskies full of sandwiches, bottled water, and cut fruit. There’s a greengrocer giving away slices of watermelon and bananas – gloriously ripe. He has a huge smile on his face, claiming that his bananas have appeal. Even the bad humour was good on a day like today.


Just about everyone wore a smile. Every person you locked eyes with was someone just focussed on helping others. It was hard work. We left feeling tired. But there is so much that still needs to be done. So we’re going back tomorrow.


Question: what are your experiences of the flood or the clean up? Please leave a comment below…

Grace and peace,


Ministry to the unknown

A few years ago we visited Saddleback Church in Los Angeles. A lot of things impressed me. I remember the army of 60 volunteers who gave a few hours of their time every week to assemble thousands of newsletters for the next day. I was impressed with Saddleback’s commitment to see their vision, mission and values applied right across the board. I know some people find some of Rick Warren’s canned and contrived, but their alignment to their vision has really worked to make this huge church an effective community of mission and ministry.

One memory is particularly inspirational. As we walked from the car park to the worship centre we were met by one person after another whose ministry was to make us feel welcome. It was as if their passion was to minister to the unknown. We were unknown to them, but they greeted us like family. Like we were old friends. I remember one particular greeter, a young girl of about 11 or 12 years old. Newsletters in one hand, the other outstretched in a gesture of welcome, smiling warmly toward us, “so nice that you’re here today, welcome to Saddleback!” It was beautiful. I thought I might have seen something of heaven in that moment.

People who welcome others to worship or other gatherings of Jesus’ community have such a critical role. Theirs is a ministry of first impressions. This is always important. But the stakes are way higher when people who might be far from God are entering a place of worship for the first time.

So the people in these roles should be the warmest and most relational people available. People who delight to minister to the unknown, and who will love people they do not know. Not only will these people give others a powerful reason to return and a positive first experience, they will also be revealing the character of a seeking God to those who may be seeking him.

Q: how can you draw those involved in greeting ministry at your church into a more Christlike expression of ‘ministry to the unknown’?

Grace and peace: Dave

Location:Sturgeon St,Ormiston,Australia

Come Once, Come Weekly

Did you make it to a Sunday Service yesterday?

At Redlands CRC in the AM we welcomed Redland City Mayor, Melva Hobson and Councillor Wendy Boglary, and we hosted representatives from Queensland Police, State Emergency Services, and Queensland Fire & Rescue Service. To celebrate our National Day of Thanksgiving, we wanted to specifically thank those who work in police and emergency services. So we issued special invitations, got in the commercial espresso machines, and treated them to some great Christian affirmation. We also made gestures of thanks to some in the church family who do so much behind the scenes and yet who are not often affirmed. It was great to honour God together for what he does through people! It was so encouraging to hear (and feel) the buzz in the room! It really is good to glorify God as we meet together. Thanks for being part it!

Truth is, not everyone makes it every Sunday. For some, this is unavoidable. Whether through career or other circumstance, from time to time we just cannot make it.

But did you know that a proportion of the Redlands CRC family attend only once every two or three weeks?

Is that you?

I know: no one needs a guilt trip. But having a good look at how we spend our time, and what we spend our time on, could be a timely thing to do. I’ll leave that exercise to you…

As you think about Sundays, though, it’s good to remember the metaphor Paul uses to describe the church in 1 Cor 12. He refers to it as ‘the body of Christ’. One of the key points he makes is this:

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. ” (1 Corinthians 12:27, TNIV)

God wants you to be active in the church. If your typical attendance pattern is to come every second week, or every third week, or less – have you ever thought about the impact that has on the body? You might think that it doesn’t matter too much whether you’re there or not. If you don’t think it matters, try this: take just one piece of your body out of the picture – just for a day. Let’s say, your left hand. You’re probably right handed – it shouldn’t matter that much, right? Or a toe – or even a section of a toe – ever tried walking with an ingrown toenail? See, if just one small part is out of action, the rest of the body knows all about it.

The reality is that God really loves it when the body is working well. Every part of it. He loves it when the body is healthy. He loves is when the body worships and serves and works the best that it possibly can. He loves it when the whole family meets and worships together!

It may even be that the body needs you more than you need the body. Either way, when the whole body works well together, God is honoured and is grace is more evident in the church and in the world.

So why not make a plan to come more regularly: come once, come weekly. Glorify God with His people, and together pray that the wonderful news of his son will be carried into his world just that little bit better as we do.


Members of Queensland Fire & Rescue, along with Cr Wendy Boglary
Dave Groenenboom, Tom Short (SES), and Mayor Melva Hobson

Another QF&R Officer with some of the more important people at Redlands CRC

Photos: Kev Hudson

Team Lesson

The people who are least involved in the process tend to demand the most of your leadership resources 

Having just returned from a team meeting, I was again reminded about the importance of every individual’s engagement in the development and implementation of a shared vision. We have a reasonably well developed leadership structure in what is essentially a volunteer organisation (a church community). The nature of voluntary involvement means that not everyone will be at the team meetings all of the time. I was reminded tonight that those who are less engaged in the process require so much more time from core leadership:

  • They  need to be reminded about the core values more than other team members
  • They need to be reminded more than others about the real meaning of the vision
  • They need to be assured more regularly that they are a meaningful part of the team. They may experience considerable self doubt
  • They will struggle to implement strategies that the team has developed

Consequence: As a leader it will be harder to bring them along with you. I wonder whether there’s something like an 80/20 rule here: 20% of your team will tend to attract 80% of you attention – or something like that? I suppose there are also some hard economies: someone who regularly chooses not to engage is probably the wrong person for that area of service or ministry. They may need to consider their place in the team.

Here is an uncomfortable tension: You straddle being a shepherd and a leader. Both qualities are demanded of you, but they are sometimes so hard to harmonise…


The role of desire in vision realisation

What is the relationship between vision and desire? We spent some time talking about this last night

The team discussed the vision of the church: “To see the city of Redlands become a community of hope”. This is essentially a vision that looks outside of who we are. We are not here for ourselves primarily, we are here to engage in God’s mission in our community. We are here not just for people who already know who Jesus is, we are also here for those who do not know him, and who may come to know him in the future.

The team discussed the necessary tensions that this involves. We cannot just concentrate on programs and ministry for the people who are already part of the church. We need to give our mind to mission and outreach. But here’s the rub: you cannot do mission and outreach without nurturing and developing the church family. Nor can you nurture and develop the church family without engaging in effective mission and outreach. The two work together, drawing people into balanced and holistic forward movement.

This is captured in Jesus commission to the church:


Mt 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


We have tried to capture this in our mission statement as well: “Glorify God by nurturing the church to maturity in order to bring others to Christ.”


Our discussion then returned to the vision, and we discussed what ‘a community of hope’ might look like in broad terms. We identified the following as indicative that our vision was coming to expression in the community in general. It would be a community where the following would be clearly seen:

·         Vital and prevailing churches

·         Friendly caring people

·         Loving families

·         A thriving, just and compassionate community which seeks to bless and serve others


We then asked what general barriers we might encounter as we seek to realise this vision, and the team suggested


·         Time – we’re very busy people and the demands on time often mean we just cannot do all the things we want to do

·         Finance –we live in a very blessed part of the world, and the demographic of our church family is largely one where people are financially comfortable, thought not without a lot of persistent hard work. Our budget is healthy, but it’s no cake walk. Financial constraints will sometimes limit what we can do

·         Skills – we have talented group of people with many well developed skills. Even so, training and development are required, and sometimes we do not have the skills we need to complete certain tasks

·         Desire – we identified this as the biggest barrier to realising our vision. It is really our desire? Does it live in our hearts? Is it our passion?


Interestingly, if our resources pull up short when it comes to time, or finance, or skills, it will always be desire that will drive us to realise the vision. We may not end up with a perfect result, but desire will have us try, and try hard. The thing to note is that even if we have enough time, finance and skills, if the desire is not there, little will be achieved. Desire is the greatest fuel to realising vision, and lack of desire is also the greatest impediment to the vision.


So when it comes to making hard choices about whether to take a new hill, or break new ground, or implement a new strategy, the thing that will have us push through discomfort and pain will be our desire to see the vision achieved. For followers of Jesus, the focal point for desire is the love of God expressed in the Gospel, and God’s own commitment to bring his restored and transformed world into existence.


That’s what Paul said: 2 Co 5:14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.


And again: 2 Co 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.