Grab Bag Masterpiece

by New Church Starts

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

Do you remember the fun and excitement of the “grab bag” gift from when you were a kid? Or, purchasing that ‘mystery pack’ of collector’s cards (like baseball, etc.) in which you had NO idea what you would find? The thrill of mystery and surprise stays with you even as an adult.

The notion of finding is not only to encounter or happen upon something, but to do so unexpectedly. New church starts are perfectly positioned for a kind of “grab bag” ministry. We thrive on finding the unexpected who, what, when, where, why, and how that God is initiating in our communities and world.

Recently, New Jersey was hit with a natural disaster called Hurricane Irene. No one can ever truly be prepared for what a hurricane might do. Our new church plant (Waretown/Barnegat Anew United Methodist Churches) was not always looking to develop teams of committed volunteers to assess damage, shovel mud, pump water, and tarp roofs, but, this is the opportunity we “happened upon” quite unexpectedly.

Thankfully, my colleague and co-pastor, Derrick Doherty, is the Conference Coordinator for Disaster Response for our conference. He was able to interface immediately with UMCOR and their Early Response Training Program to get three full-day training sessions on the calendar for early September and early October. Now, we are “finding” Irene-related opportunities to be about the ministry of Jesus Christ in our communities. We saw a need emerge unexpectedly and stepped up to meet it.

When I was an undergrad almost two-decades ago, I took a poetry course (not appreciation,   but actually writing of poetry) with a poet/professor who gave his class some really good artistic advice. He said that creating works of art often does not occur under ideal circumstances in which the artist can pick and choose from their own perfect repository of theme, material, resource, and expectation. Rather, creating great works of art often occur when the artist is constrained by what he or she finds and happens upon unexpectedly in the process of living and creating. Try to think of all the great artists in history for whom this idea can apply. The list could go on forever.

Now try to think of some of the best churches you've ever been in and some of the greatest figures in Christian history. I think this rule is true in ministry as well. God calls us to our greatest work as we find it along the journey! Let’s be about the business of creating a “grab bag masterpiece” in the name of Jesus Christ!

What have been some of the occasions in the past for your church to engage in “grab bag ministry”? How did you respond to the unexpected situations you found yourselves in?