A Work in Progress

by New Church Starts

by Erik Hall planter of Barnegat Anew in Barnegat, New Jersey

During our new church’s preview season (in the summer of 2010) I agonized over the theme our worship celebrations would embody. We were meeting in our town’s community center which looked much more like a large kindergarten classroom than a worship space. As a new church start we did not have the resources for any fancy lighting or professional creative designing to help communicate that we were carving out some sacred space. As we faced the reality that ‘environment matters’, I knew the ‘kindergarten clutter’ thing wasn’t helping us to intentionally communicate who we were or what we were about.

So, in a moment of Wesleyan inspiration, the theme of:  ‘A Work in Progress’ struck me as not only a solution to our practical issue of worship space, but also a powerful proclamation of our faith journey. On the practical side, with less than $100 and the contents of my garage, I could gather enough tape, drop-cloths, spray-paint, tools, and rolls of brown contractor’s paper to completely cover the walls and floors of our worship space to look like a construction zone. On the faith side, our new church start was able to intentionally live into, and invite people into, God’s great sanctifying grace. With the theme ‘A Work in Progress’ we were able to:

a)      Be authentic and honest that we, as a church, are following Jesus, but we aren’t perfect.

b)      Invite others to come along on the journey despite their personal failures or short-comings.

c)      Trust that as we go we will become better and better, and our lives fuller and fuller of God.

d)      Hope that together we can make a difference in the name of Jesus in the wider community.

A year and a half later, that worship theme has long since ended, but the reality of God’s sanctifying grace, the reality that we are all, as individuals and as a new community of faith, ‘A Work in Progress’, has made its way into the core of our DNA. When we make a mistake, when a new ministry gets off to a rocky start, when one of our initiatives fails, when we need to embrace an uncomfortable change, oftentimes I am reminding our people that we are a work in progress.

John Wesley wrote in a letter dated June 27 1760; “Every one, though born of God in an instant, yet undoubtedly grows by slow degrees”. And so it is with each of us and our new church starts.