One of the most prevalent challenges in contemporary Christianity is navigating the relationship between the individual and their faith community when the Christian enters spiritually challenging times: periods of aridity, misunderstanding, suffering, or darkness. This problem is amplified because of the growing angst that many feel with organized religion. When loyalty to the church gets tested during a personal faith crisis or honest intellectual query, many leave disenchanted, claiming a desire to be spiritual but not religious.
Cries from the Wilderness: Reimagining Church Culture in an Age of Uncertainty explores the memoirs of three contemporary sojourners (Rachel Held Evans, David Gushee, and Macy Halford) asking: What postures were common in his or her journey that helped them navigate their spiritual wilderness? David Pocta then argues that a primary problem is that many faith communities rarely see themselves in the spiritual wilderness. The author’s contention is that spiritual communities are often ill-equipped to nurture the spiritual life of disoriented or questioning Christians. By acknowledging their own spiritual journey and drawing lessons from healthy wilderness postures they would be better positioned to transform and mature their community while creating a nurturing environment for individual sojourners.
David Pocta is director of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Spirituality at the Oblate School of Theology and Executive Director of the Disciples Center for Education.
Chapter 1: The Story of a Soul
Chapter 2: Macy Halford
Chapter 3: Rachel Held Evans
Chapter 4: David Gushee
Chapter 5: Navigating the Wilderness
Chapter 6: What Went Wrong with Their Community
Chapter 7: A Theology and Spirituality of Wilderness
Chapter 8: A Model to Frame "Deconstruction" and Community
Chapter 9: Contextualizing the Contemporary Wilderness
Chapter 10: Reimagining the Church: Some Suggestions
Conclusion: Some Final Uncensored Thoughts
With a depth gained from both profound spiritual struggle and intellectual rigor, David Pocta has given the church a pastoral gift—an examination of its role in driving Christians into the wilderness. With his own journey as backdrop, Pocta analyzes the stories of three fellow pilgrims, offering a rich understanding of their wanderings and pointing out common markers along the way. The result is a narrative of how transformed faith and hope can spring from personal desolation. This volume will serve as a remarkable resource for the healing of the churches in which our journeys begin and of those alienated by their faith traditions.
This book is for anyone who has experienced the spiritual wilderness or who knows someone trying to navigate the spiritual wilderness. In other words, it is for everyone. This book gives hope for those who are wandering and breathes life into dry bones. David Pocta helps faith communities understand how to listen to and have conversations with wilderness folk. Take and read.
Attentive to the angst of “wandering, doubting, questioning” Christians (especially Evangelicals, the author’s own church family), who find their once beloved church communities unable to sustain them beyond the simple certainties that once constituted faith, David Pocta’s “Cries from the Wilderness” offers a compelling, challenging, yet ultimately faith-filled response. The narratives of three questioners with markedly different trajectories– Macy Halford, Rachael Held Evans, and David Gushee- map out the wilderness journey in its variety as each wrestles with what it might mean to nurture discipleship towards genuine maturity. While the three vividly illustrate the search, the focus of Pocta’s concern is the inability of their home churches to offer spiritual, theological and scriptural sustenance for the journey. He thus offers a bracing, well- considered critique and an expansive, kingdom-driven vision of the church reimagined.
Cries from the Wilderness examines a complex problem—people leaving evangelical churches—through a complex lens—the wilderness metaphor—and proposes a complex solution—a reimagined spiritual ecclesial ecosystem. Not a book for those looking to simply confirm an analysis or find a quick-fix program, it is rather an invitation into a research space that honors honest questions, community tensions, and possibilities for healthy change; that is to say, it is a spiritual project.
I recommend this book, not only for its thought-provoking content, but also for the deep concern you will hear in David Pocta’s voice throughout it. With conviction and compassion, he models what he calls us to: a willingness to study (including rigorous personal and institutional self-examination), a commitment to listen well to diverse others, and an investment to cultivate Spirit-produced virtues for the ongoing work of becoming less rigid in our communities of faith.