~by Clint Westbrook~

Imagine yourself alone in a room with no windows and no doors, your phone signal non-existent, and no Internet. Isolated and cut off from anyone and everyone, you’re depressed, lonely, and frustrated.


Sitting in the scratchy pew one Sabbath, the smell of colognes and dust in the air, I had the worst religious experience of my life. My faith in God was already weak, but my faith in religion was almost gone. The guy sitting next to me was still drunk, the smells of spiced rum breath burning my nostrils. The girls behind me were loud and distracting as they laughed and insulted everyone, the click-clacking of their fingers on their phones calling up Facebook profiles and pictures of people around them. Meanwhile the people in front of me complained about the way people around them were dressed and about how the sermon needed more Ellen White quotations. Here these people were, insulting the people around them and making it hard for anyone else to care or try. God wasn’t felt in that house.

Small Discoveries 

That Sabbath I broke inside. Something inside me said leave, so I left and went to Starbucks. I needed coffee and music to get my mind off the situation around me. With Radiohead in my headphones and a black coffee in my hands I finally began to relax. Glancing over, I discovered a dusty, tattered Bible sitting on the table next to me and began to flip through it. My small discoveries made the harsh realizations of the day much more difficult to deal with.

Looking at the lives of Christ, Moses, and Paul, I felt that God is someone to strive toward, not display once a week. Religion is something to live every minute of every day. So why do we preen like proud peacocks on Saturday? It feels wrong. It feels as if we care more about disguising our problems than about dedication to God.

As time passed, I began to withdraw from the friends and “church family” that I had grown up with. I’d find every excuse possible to avoid church and began ditching. I just went to a non- Christian friend’s house instead. I was lost and hurt, and the worst part—no one even noticed. I was swept up in a whirlwind of frustration and resentment.

Crumbling Faith 

I am still in this spiral. I’ll admit that without hesitation. Even now, going to church is a struggle. I have become cynical and disillusioned, and I have lost almost all faith in organized religion. To me church cannot and should not be contained in a building. Belief should be shining in every minute of our lives, not just when we are being watched. And even the darkest corners of the world know that we need to take care of our own when they are in trouble.

Since I stopped regularly participating in Adventism very few have reached out to me. There have been kind words, over-used Bible verses, and sheer disbelief at my crumbling faith but nothing resembling true support. The further down this rabbit hole I go, the more depressing it becomes.

The Proposition 

I propose that the best or help in their struggle is just to be there for them, lifting them up and showing true interest in their lives. Don’t tell them about God; live as an influence for God. A quote from the popular animated science fiction series Futurama sums up this idea. The quote was from the character of God, who was met and questioned about His work in the universe. At the end of the episode He says, “When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.” And therein may be the answer.

Which is more important – support or display? I propose that church should more resemble an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting than a dog show. When we enter church on Sabbath we are primed and trotted out on display, a smile on our faces and a skip in our step, but all we do is hide what is going on the other six days of the week. Instead of hiding, I say we bring our sins before each other and God, keeping them where they can be seen so that people can be supportive and help us with them as well as understand what we are going through.

My outlook might indeed be different if someone had reached a hand out. If someone had taken time to look at what I needed I might have felt accepted instead of like an outsider. Everyone has their own problems, but the one thing that we need to do besides reach out into the community is to protect the people we have.

This Sabbath, look around you. Look at the people in the scratchy, back-breaking pews around you, at your friends and church family. Some of them might be struggling, just waiting for you to reach out to them. All you need to do is extend a hand.

Clint Westbrook is a junior language arts education major from Wichita, Kansas, attending Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.  


1. What if…you worried less about yourself and more about your church family?

2. What if…instead of simply asking how someone is doing you open up about yourself and see if they do the same?

3. What if…church were like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting?

4. What if…church weren’t just contained in a big building but in homes where people can be closer and less showy?

5. What if…instead of making church about appearances we made it about each other and our connections to God?