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As a fan of Mike Cosper in his role as the host of podcasts such as The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, I was interested in what he might have to say about the rise and (sort of) fall of his own church, Sojourn in Louisville, Ky. As one of the founding pastors of this church, Cosper thought he had found his forever faith home. But as the culture wars escalated in evangelicalism, Sojourn fell prey to some of the same toxicities that have felled well-known churches such as Willow Creek and Harvest Bible Chapel. Cosper ended up getting fired from the very church he founded, and not for doing anything wrong. He was devastated, and he wasn’t alone. “Many are living with wounds from the spiritual communities they once (and still) loved,” he wrote.

Disillusioned and wounded by his ousting from a place he loved (and still called home, but at another site from the one he worked at), Cosper found himself in a dark night of the soul and a crisis of faith. The cure, if there was one, was definitely not to be found in pat, shallow platitudes.

“Something tectonic” had happened, not just to his faith and church, but within the broader evangelical church and culture. He recalls things starting to get shaky in 2012, when, after the murder of Trayvon Martin, Cosper preached a sermon from Ephesians 2, where Paul describes how Jesus breaks down the walls of hostility that separate men and women of different races. “I took that sermon as an opportunity to speak to the broader racial tensions that were emerging in our country.” To his surprise and dismay, his church received angry calls and emails for weeks, and there were calls for his removal from the staff. What in the world was happening?

The rift only widened in 2016, when spiritual leaders he admired and revered began to excuse all kinds of bad behavior in the name of political expediency.

While at first Cosper tried to give people the benefit of the doubt, he gradually and depressingly began to see a larger story—one of widespread “deceived and corrupted imaginations” within and without the church.

Then came his firing, and Cosper felt despair and disorientation. His identity had been wrapped up wholly in being part of this faith community, and now he was on the outside looking in. Thankfully, a wise friend suggested he spend time with “tired Elijah,” the version of the prophet who lay exhausted under a broom tree, wanting to just dry up and die. Here was a spiritual leader Cosper could relate to in his moment of deep need.

“The desert the prophet crashed in was tangible to me in ways that kindled my spiritual imagination. I had been where Elijah had been.”

Elijah led him to Mount Tabor, where he found Peter, and related to how the disciple watched in awe as Jesus spoke to Elijah and Moses on the mountain of transfiguration. Then he followed Peter to Jerusalem, Gethsemane, and another mountain: Golgotha.

“The journey of my inner life was nothing new, just as Peter’s was nothing new.” Peter’s struggles echoed Elijah’s, and Cosper’s own wrestlings resonated with both of theirs. “Attending to these men and these mountains made sense of my disillusionment and allowed me to welcome my apocalypse.”

Cosper’s writing is exceptional, and his creativity at weaving biblical characters and their physical landscapes with his own changing faith terrain is a marvel. So many Christians have experienced what Cosper did and have faced heartbreak via disillusionment with their own pastors, leaders, churches, and institutions. But this book and its vulnerable, relatable author, offers hope and a way forward, even if one stumbles with every step.

Indeed, we are living in “tectonic” times, and the rifts and ruptures make for a challenging spiritual landscape. But it is possible to resettle on solid ground. As Land of My Sojourn relates, when everything you thought you knew about your faith family crumbles, and when faith leaders topple off their pedestals, there is still terra firma. There is still and always immovable holy ground on which to stand. (IVP)

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