The Wilderness Forum
+ Launch Day Information
The person I am today has been formed and shaped by the communities I have inhabited. From theology to psychology, everything I have read tells me that a need for community is fashioned into our DNA—that we were always meant to be a people gathered rather than a people scattered. As I lived and breathed local church ministry for 11 years, fostering community became very near and dear to my heart.
Losing my community, though, and being discarded by a community I held dear was life-shattering.
The heartbreaking reality is that I am not alone. Droves of people are choosing to leave their churches and faith communities every year. The Barna Group released an article in 2020 for their State of the Church series. In it, they report on the rapid decline in church attendance. In 1993, their surveys gathered that about 45% of all U.S. adults attended a church gathering weekly. In March 2020, just before the first round of the COVID-19 lockdowns, that number was reported to be 29%. The most surprising thing is that despite the decrease in weekly attendance, the overall commitment to spiritual disciplines (like prayer & reading of scripture) has remained very consistent over three decades.
I don’t know everything, and I’m still going over the research, but having walked the journey behind me and looking at the research today, I think the data is speaking. Many people want to continue to engage their faith & retain their relationship with Jesus, but they don’t know how to reconcile the Person of Christ with what they have witnessed in the churches formed in his name.
I have a rough hypothesis. Church attendance may be on the decline, in some part, because we are more aware. The stories that are often kept hidden in the deep are now coming to the surface. Social media and round-the-clock news has made it easy for church members to have an acute pulse on the gross misconduct going on within church buildings and communities. People who would never be allowed to share their story from a pulpit or in a member meeting can now do so through social media platforms. If you do a simple Google search of the phrase, “church scandal,” you’ll have your pick of the stories to read. If you search #spiritualabuse or #religioustrauma on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll find even more. And if you’re here, you likely know I have one of those stories, too.
But there are some things the statistics don’t tell you. Graphs cannot show how gut-wrenching it is to leave a community. The research doesn’t elaborate on what members really lose when they choose to step away in order to keep their integrity. The numbers cannot show the depth of one’s lament and anger. Data cannot quantify a qualitative loss. But as people, we can grieve the loss, and in our grief, we share the story of our loss with others.
I began sharing smaller bits of my story in discrete ways in late 2020. By the spring of 2021, I had terms for what my family and I were walking through. When the wounds had finally scabbed over, I began using my words to articulate my sorrow. When I began speaking up, others reached out to me privately to share their stories with me. Having borne witness to so many of their journeys and having the opportunity to grieve with others, I began thinking, “If I could just get them together, they would have each other. We could be the community we all yearn for.” And with the kernel of an idea, my hope kindled.
What if we created a new way to bear with one another?
This idea of community simmered within me. After months of thinking and weeks of testing new waters, I am so happy to share that I have a way forward: The Wilderness Forum.
The Wilderness Forum (WF) is my small answer to a growing number of people who desperately miss having community, but struggle with a sense of safety in church environments. The WF is a community for those grappling with church experiences or experiences with other faith communities that have left them spiritually wounded and limping. Is the WF a church? No, but my hope is that within the WF, we can gently hold each other’s stories in a way that our former churches would not. My hope is that those of us who were discarded can find community together.
The WF is a people. We are the ones who are for those wrestling with significant church hurt, religious trauma, and abuse experienced within Christian environments because we are wrestling with those things, too. This community is for those deconstructing their beliefs because you watched things go sideways in your traditional faith communities. The WF is for those who know the value of community and have grieved the loss of it all.
The WF is here & I want to invite you in. My hope is this is a community with a deep sense of knowing—one where you can lay your sword down, shed your armor, and bear your stories with both vulnerability and courage.
If any of this resonates, if you have walked this road, if you see yourself in any of these words, or if you have walked with others over this rocky terrain, the WF is for you. I want you to find camaraderie and friendship among us. By God’s grace, I want you to find healing there, too.
If you are one of the growing number who has left a traditional church setting, but you miss being a part of the Bride of Christ, my heart is for you. If I were near, I’d make a pot roast and send it over to you. If I could, I’d hug your neck and listen to your story over a cup of coffee. I can’t do those things for you from Houston, but I can shepherd the space within the Wilderness Forum alongside you all.
It is my sincere hope the WF is a gift to you.
Joining the WF
I created a very mindful step-by-step process to join the WF. First, this is to slow down impulse decisions made because of FOMO (fear of missing out). Second, this is in an effort to keep the space safe. If you’re interested in signing up, fill out the interest form found by clicking the button below.
My long-term hope for the Wilderness Forum is not only to create a community space, but to create avenues that fostering healing for survivors and equip churches to cultivate healing spaces. And a big hope is to launch a one-day editorial page to feature writers and stories at wildernessforum.org.
My work in writing, ministering to others, and continuing to host and grow the Wilderness Forum is made possible by the donations of the few. I would love for you to consider financially partnering with me as I seek to care and write words of hope and healing for others. My hope is to always keep the Wilderness Forum, Writer’s Workshops, and my one-on-one Zoom calls free for those who are looking for a friend and a soft landing place after enduring personal spiritual hardship. Your support helps make that possible.
I have a short, 3-minute video below, but if you would like to hear more about the work I’m doing, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re ready to give, click the Donate button.
My current goal is to reach $3600 in annual support.
All donations made through my Fractured Atlas* page are tax-deductible.
*Fractured Atlas is a nonprofit that supports the charitable work creatives, writers, & artists are doing within their communities. They have been gracious in partnering with me.
Lastly, if you know of someone who may find the WF a gift to them, please share my newsletter, Letters for the Wilderness, with them.