Out Into The Desert Is A New Vision For Establishing Community

Out Into The Desert Is A New Vision For Establishing Community January 3, 2023

out into the desert


Recently I had the chance to review the book Out Into The Desert by Karl and Laura Forehand. Out Into The Desert is a testimony of the struggles that accompany being an evangelical pastor in a time when evangelicalism is largely out of touch with the social issues of the day. The Forehands attempt to break through the stereotypes of the congregations they served only to find uninformed blank stares. Out Into The Desert is a pastoral journey of struggle through many of those social issues that the Church has faced throughout the years.


Perhaps one of the most unique features of the book is the additional voice that Laura (Karl’s wife) provides the reader. It is one thing to have the pastor’s perspective but it is quite another to have a pastor’s wife’s perspective as well. This provides the reader with two unique perspectives as the reader takes this journey along with the authors.

The Forehands also provide a unique perspective in that they neither deny the proper function of the Church nor do they condemn people who chose to stay. Instead, they understand that the underlying principle of the Church is the community it establishes and reaches. Although the authors have left the organized Church, they have not left community. This is an important concept for people to understand. The authors understand the value that accompanies the togetherness of the community and simply reshape what it means for Christians to be in community. It harkens back to the time of Bonhoeffer who also believed in the larger community as the tabernacle where God dwells.

The great thing about redefining community is that it becomes more inclusive and less restrictive as is the case in many denomination-based Churches. The authors understand that simply establishing a Christ-centric community draws people from all walks of life, races, genders, etc. No one is bound by the traditions they have become accustomed to. But everyone is united under the banner of being a follower of Jesus Christ. Out Into The Desert permits individuals to reinvent themselves.

Individuality and Personal Responsibility

Out Into The Desert invites the individual to understand their place in the larger community. Although you will find some familiar tropes in this book, the familiarity simply reassures the reader of their responsibility to evaluate what they experience in their own community.

If anything is certain it is this: the Church is not going to change unless individuals change because it is the individual who carries the church within them. If you question whether or not the Church even has to change I would challenge you to study the life of Jesus and ask yourself two questions: Why was Jesus so concerned with Social Justice over and above proper beliefs? And why was this the first text he read to begin his ministry (Luke 4:17-21):


“…and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”


It is ultimately our job to imitate the life of Christ through community. Sometimes, Church gets in the way of doing this. However, a community commissioned by Jesus is always ready to perform these acts. We cannot wait for the Church to make things right, we have to take personal responsibility for this ourselves. If you find that your church is not following the proclamation that Jesus makes, then you need to evaluate whether or not your church is a place where you should be.

Deconstructing Religion

Deconstruction is a term that creates a lot of emotion for both evangelicals and progressive Christians. Much of the debate revolves around understanding the idea correctly. Many evangelicals have a misguided understanding of what deconstruction is. Mostly because evangelical leaders distort the term to fit their own agenda. In its simplest understanding, deconstruction is re-evaluating one’s beliefs.

However, what Out Into The Desert challenges us to do is not just to deconstruct our beliefs but to deconstruct the church itself. Of course, deconstruction begins with beliefs, but it must not end there. It must end with our re-evaluation of the Church in order to know whether or not it is really following Jesus through the lens of our reconstructed beliefs, or whether or not it has its own agenda.

To be clear, I don’t believe the authors would say Church is bad per se, but I think they would argue that it is oftentimes too restrictive. This is frequently the case due to the polity that most churches have put in place. However, community is more like a brisk breeze on a warm day. It is freeing and open and is not as restricted by “the rules” That have been established for the last 100 years.

Some Final Thoughts

I’ll be honest, when I first started reading Out Into The Desert I thought to myself “great, another book that just complains about the Church.” However, as I kept reading I began to see this new vision of community emerge that was very interesting to think about. I think that the idea of community is the proper way to think about the church when we are trying to evaluate its purpose.

This book reminded me a lot of the “Desert Fathers”. The Desert Fathers lived around the 3rd Century in the area of Egypt. They dedicated themselves to the community of Christians established in the desert in that region. A lot of important ideas came out of the desert. I think the Forehands are inviting us back to a time when belief in Jesus and his work was purer than the distorted version we have through organized religion. Let us not fear the desert, but invite the unknown into our lives and see how Jesus can transform us when the shackles of organized religion are taken off.

You can view my UNenlightenment YouTube Channel HERE
You can view my  UNenlightenment Podcast HERE
You can follow me on FaceBook HERE

You can purchase the book UNenlightenment HERE.





About Eric English
Eric is a rogue philosopher, theologian, author, podcaster and ninja. He is a father of three, husband of one, and a poet unto himself. Eric’s main areas of thinking are in philosophy (specifically, Soren Kierkegaard), theology (Narrative Perspectivism), and culture. Eric also hosts the podcast UNenlightenment.  You can read more about the author here.

Browse Our Archives

Close Ad