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As I was casting about for ideas for this week’s blog, my eyes Sunday fell on the latest NY Times column by Tish Harrison Warren.  In her piece she interviewed an expert on interfaith dialogues and she asked him what he finds most distressing in the area of religious discourse these days.  His answer was that so often it seems people are aware of only negative aspects of religion.  When he engages in Q&A sessions in various venues, so many questions center on scandals, violence done in the name of religious faith, bigotry in religious communities, and so on.  The shame of it, he noted, is that there is so much good stuff to appreciate but that no one talks about.

As an example he said, “I’ll tell you what I find encouraging. Catholic sisters just keep on doing what Catholic sisters do, which is taking care of poor people. There are 10,000 migrants in Chicago that leadership recently welcomed into the city. But they had not adequately prepared for where those people would sleep. Well, guess who’s taking care of them? Largely, Catholic Charities and other faith-based organizations.” 

I like his line “Catholic sisters just keep on doing what Catholic sisters do.”  It describes a lot of the church most of the time.  Christian people just quietly keep doing what Christians are called to do.  They send cards or emails to encourage those in tough times.  They bake casseroles and pies and bring them to those recovering from illness or enduring a season of grief.  They come alongside the hospital bed of someone who is sick or just sit quietly with the person who is in a Job-like place of disorientation. 

Church musicians keep trying to design worship services that will nourish people’s faith and give them meaningful outlets to express the praise we were all designed to render to God.  Pastors faithfully do the hard work of bringing Bible texts to life in sermons they hope will be both relevant and interesting.  And when now and again a sermon flops in some way or another, they just get back up on their feet to try again the next week (there’s always another Sunday coming!).

None of this grabs headlines.  Most of it is quiet volunteer work in the background of life and most such activities don’t garner a Facebook post or a Tweet or an Instagram moment.  I like a Tweet Esau McCaulley posted a few days ago pointing to the self-aggrandizing effects of social media.  In response he wrote, “I know that for some of us it’s part of our job to work in public, but remember we are not the heroes in this epic.  We are looking for a city whose builder and maker is God.”

Catholic sisters just being Catholic sisters, dear people standing at your door with that potato-chip-crusted tuna casserole: these are not heroes doing heroic things.  They are just faithful folks doing the faithful work to which we have all been called.  How easy it is to miss all this good stuff in our incessant focus on what is wrong with the church, what negative things are going on, etc.

Somewhere in his book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, Neal Plantinga noted that in this world, nothing sets our tongues to wagging like bad news.  But perhaps in the kingdom of God when people sit on their front porches and call out to one another at a day’s end, what they will be most eager to regale each other with will be good news, all the good and noble and beautiful things there are to celebrate at any given moment. 

Maybe this is a fine vision for the kingdom.  For all of us who find it easy to wallow in what’s hurtful or what feels broken or wrong, it’s a good reminder to do what we can to do some warm-up exercises for the kingdom of heaven and already now talk about, give thanks for, and celebrate all the quiet ways in which the church of Jesus Christ keeps managing to get some things right.

Scott Hoezee

Scott Hoezee is Director of the Center for Excellence in Preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • Thank you for this, Scott.

  • Alicia Mannew says:

    Thanks for this good reminder!

  • Lynn Setsma says:

    And I read this as I sit on my porch looking at a rainbow. Thank you, Scott, for this lovely reminder. May we all be like the catholic sisters just doing the work.

  • Dan Walcott says:

    Thanks Scott, so true and so encouraging. Recently I was reflecting on the church history book so many of us used in CSI schools, most of the stories told in that book were about schism in the church and many of the heroes were generals. I would love a church history course taught according to your excellent article, Christians doing what Christians do, and the Holy Spirit changing the world one person at a time.

  • Joyce Looman Kiel says:

    How refreshing Scott. Thank you.

  • Jan Zuidema says:

    Years ago, I wrote a letter to Spark, Calvin’s alumni magazine, noting exactly what you have spoken. The church is built and the kingdom sustained by those quietly going about their lives of service, with no acclaim and no fanfare. In this contentious time, thank you for reminding us to keep on keeping on. The kingdom truly is built one person at a time.

  • jack roeda says:

    This got me to thinking about what Jesus said.
    And again, Jesus said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like Leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, and it was all leavened”.Luke13:20-21

  • Emily Jane VandenBos Style says:

    Thank you, Scott. In this regard, I highly recommend how Dacher Keltner documents and explores how and why we human beings “attend the church of awe, “ though he doesn’t use that exact phrasing—in his 2023 book entitled AWE. Such an inclusive affirming scientific text, in my view. What we choose to study matters. As does, what we neglect.

  • Beth Terborg says:

    Thank you, Scott, for reminding me of what I see happening so often in our church that goes unnoticed.

  • Chris Rea says:

    This was so encouraging and uplifting to read. Thanks, Scott!

  • Eunice Bossenbrook says:

    About once a month, the weekly email from our church staff includes a paragraph describing an “Unsung Hero” serving in the church. I’m always in awe of what is happening quietly, behind the scene, making our community a little better, the church more beautiful. Thank you, Scott, for calling our attention to all these unsung heroes among us.

  • Pam Adams says:

    Scott, In my early days I was a Roman Catholic and heard stories read about missionaries around the world proclaiming the gospel and of course helping with the physical needs of the people. I have five people in my now Protestant family who are missionaries in Ethiopia and Nicaragua. I visited Ethiopia a few months ago with my son and I was overwhelmed with grace of the Lord being faithful to these children of God. They are thankful for the Word, schools, and meals they are provided that help them live as the creatures God has made them. If you want a smile on your face visit a place where the gospel is forthrightly proclaimed.

  • Evonne Kok says:

    Such a good point, Scott. As another example of quietly doing the work that Christians do, there’s a wonderful program, Family Assistance, at Calvin CRC (Scott’s former church). It is run by volunteers and provides clothing for many people in the GR area. FA works with 80+ social services in the area, and just in the past month of June offered help to 365 families in need.

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