The Church That Does X – Devotional

During the pandemic, who, in our surrounding communities, missed our churches when we shut down in-person gatherings?

What good is it, my siblings, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? … But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. – James 2:14, 18 (NRSV)

This question is not for the pastor or the church member to answer, but for the outsider who walks by the building. What loss did the community suffer?

Was it a loss in the community that a certain church couldn’t gather to organize free meals or distribute winter coats? Were meeting spaces for twelve-step groups or for queer teenagers missed by the church’s neighbors? Or did the church’s quarantine closure have no impact on its community?

Post-quarantine, we in the church can learn from the same question. How is this church or that church perceived by the person who has never stepped inside it? Does the church have an identity in its neighborhood, such that even a stranger could say, “Well, that’s the church that does X?”

Of course, churches find their grounding in God and a spirit-filled inner life within their own faith communities, but I think they also need to have at least one simple and concrete thing they do, “X,” that a non-insider can notice easily and would miss if it were not there. In other words, that thing your church does should not require that a complete stranger read your annual report or visit you on Sunday to know about it.

If a stranger can’t say about your church, “They’re the ones that do ___,” then it’s time for the church to fill in the blank. It’s never too late to find your X.


Loving God, help us feel the pain outside our walls and discern the work that has our name on it. Amen.

About the Author

Lillian Daniel serves as Conference Minister with the Michigan Conference UCC. She is the author of Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To and When “Spiritual But Not Religious” Is Not Enough.