Colossian Blog
December 14, 2016 | Jennifer Vander Molen

Setting Off on The Colossian Way

Difficult questions face us on all sides. We often avoid them, argue about them, and divide over them. Is there a way beyond apathy or argument, division or tolerance to discipleship and faithfulness?

Yes.

That may seem like an audacious answer, but the gospel IS audacious. So we believe there is a way through difficult questions to discipleship and faithfulness.

The Colossian Way small group experience is designed to help Christians of all ages who disagree to engage difficult questions in ways that build up love of God and love of neighbor. By gathering Christians who disagree, confessing that all things hold together in Christ (Colossians 1:17), bringing our difficulties before God in prayer, listening to varied experts on the topics being discussed, attending to Scripture and the resources of the faith, and learning to listen across difference, we can trust the Holy Spirit to transform us into the image of Christ.

Want to learn more? If so, consider watching and discussing the three videos below with your leadership team or small group. The first video introduces the concept of wicked problems, the second explains why Christian virtues and practices matter, and the third presents conflict as opportunity. Thanks to Dr. Jenell Paris, a fellow with The Colossian Forum, who helped us craft these discussion questions.

Looking for a printable version of this video discussion guide? We’ve got you covered.

Video 1: Wicked Problems

Discussion questions:

  • Have you or your church faced something that could be called a “tame problem”? How was that problem solved?
  • Have you or your church faced something that could be called a “wicked problem”? How is it different than a tame problem?
  • What are some wicked problems facing the church today? How does your church generally respond to wicked problems?
  • What are some characteristics of a culture war? If the church addressed divisive issues in a different way, what would that way look like?
  • How do you respond to the claim, “God has given us everything we need to make progress on these important conversations”? Does that seem realistic? What has God given us that might prove sufficient in the midst of difficult conversations?

Video 2: Christian Virtues

Discussion questions:

  • In what ways is it counterintuitive to turn our attention in the middle of conflict from information to formation?
  • Have you ever gathered information to fight for your point against an opponent? In what ways is that satisfying? In what ways is it not satisfying?
  • What does worship mean in your life?
  • Discuss the claim made in the video: “Worship forms us, helping us see conflict through the lens of love for God and neighbor.” Have you ever seen people engage in conflict differently because they worship together? If you haven’t seen this, can you imagine what it might be like?
  • Is it true that church is “the perfect venue” for difficult conversations and conflict? Many people experience the opposite–church being the most painful and difficult place for the real stuff of life. Could your church be the perfect venue for hosting difficult conversations about divisive issues? Could your church be a place where worship forms people such that they engage conflict not as a war, but as an opportunity to live out love for God and neighbor? Talk about how these ideals could be put into practice at your church.
  • In what ways is information good? In what ways does it fall short?
  • Tell a story about a memorable experience in Sunday School from when you were young. What lessons or practices from Sunday School are as true and relevant today as they were then? What Sunday School insights could help your church engage in conflict and conversation over divisive issues?
  • Tell a story about a memorable experience in Sunday School from when you were young. What lessons or practices from Sunday School are as true and relevant today as they were then? What Sunday School insights could help your church engage in conflict and conversation over divisive issues?
  • Tell about a time in your life when conflict proved to be a catalyst for growth. How could this be true for your church today?

Video 3: Conflict as Opportunity

Discussion questions:

  • The pine cone matures for two years and then waits for fire to complete its growth. How do worship and church life mature us in ways that make us ready to face the fire of conflict?
  • “If you want to get strong, you don’t avoid pain. You lean into it until the weight gets easier and easier to lift.” Share stories of times when pain was an important part of growth.
  • Weightlifting makes muscles strong. To be strong in virtue, we must work those muscles. In your church, what are times and places where people work the muscles of love and patience?
  • Name some wicked problems that impact your church. Try out the pine cone metaphor as a way of viewing these challenges: imagining that the fires of conflict could transform your church. What would that be like?
  • Share a story about a time when you saw people in church “practicing what they preach, in the middle of the fire.” What did people say and do? What were the results?

This discussion is also available as a PDF. Help yourself to this free resource!

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When we onboard new staff and interns, they are tasked to spend time with everyone on the TCF team and get to know them both personally and professionally. Our intern Rebecca Murdock saw her time with Rob Barrett, our Director of Forums and Scholarship, through her writers' lens. We think (and hope) you'll enjoy this insight into Rob and his work here at TCF. It’s late afternoon on a Monday, and I’ve snagged some time with Rob Barrett between his responsibilities editing curriculum and working on a video shoot for the next Colossian Way training session. Despite being surrounded by paperwork, he seems upbeat, making occasional quips about the hurdles he’s facing. When I ask him why he’s here at The Colossian Forum, he smiles. “For some reason, I’m drawn to projects that others see as impossible,” he says chuckling. His work history shows that to be more than a good-natured joke. From working as a research scientist for IBM in Silicon Valley, to teaching Old Testament and Hebrew in England, to his work as a postdoctoral researcher in Göttingen, Germany, he relishes tackling difficult questions and teaching others to do the same. He first heard of The Colossian Forum when his friend sent him a job advertisement in Germany and encouraged him to apply. “Why in the world he thought of me, I wasn’t sure initially,” Rob says, explaining that he was content with his research job at the time. But his friend insisted that since Rob was involved in both communities of faith and science, he would be ideal for The Colossian Forum’s training on human origins. Out of curiosity, Rob contacted Michael Gulker, the president of TCF, and quickly found a great conversation partner regarding topics of theology, philosophy, and the future of the church. “I had always been interested in discipleship and helping build up the laity to do the work of ministry,” Rob says. “The Colossian Forum provided some of the much-needed tools for laity to be able to do that and I was intrigued.” From his younger days in church, Rob remembers being impressed by a quiet man who used to sit in the next pew over. He was active in church and, though he didn’t say much, had a lot of influence in the church community. Sometimes, the man wasn’t sure how to lead, and didn’t have any formal training, but Rob was impressed by his commitment to live faithfully and continue to serve in his corner. “When I think about the curriculum we build at The Colossian Forum, that’s the kind of person I picture us helping,” Rob says. “Lay people who are willing to serve and influence the community, but who just could use some more tools to do so.” When asked what his dream would be for the future of TCF, Rob stops to think a minute. “I think the best future would be that we are not needed anymore. That scholars and church members would naturally take up this mode of discipleship when discussing difficult things without needing our framework. “While I think we can be useful to providing the identity and vision needed in the short term, I hope that one day, a community of practice can form in Christian churches and do this better than we ever imagined.”
Frustrated with Polarization in the Church? Let The Colossian Way Help!
July 19, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Frustrated with Polarization in the Church? Let The Colossian Way Help!
Increasing polarization is part of our daily lives, as we dodge potential minefields in conversations, online, in our families, and in our churches. It's hard to see a way forward that balances the truth of the Word with the love that Christ commands us to embody. If you're frustrated with the dialog (or lack thereof), and long to see a more beautiful church, we have a tool that can help. The Colossian Way is designed to help Christians of all ages engage in difficult questions in ways that build up love of God and neighbor. By gathering Christians who disagree, confessing that all things hold together in Christ (Colossians 1:17), bringing our difficulties before God in prayer, listening to varied experts on the topics, attending to Scripture and the resources of the faith, and learning to listen and talk across difference, we can trust the Holy Spirit to transform us into the image of Christ. This small-group experience tackles the tough questions around human origins and human sexuality. The Colossian Way will help you move beyond our culture's polarizing conflict into a new reality centered around transformation, hope, growth, and witness. Imagine with us a new way of life together, built on a deep theological core, that provides hope and reflects the true beauty of Christ to the world. Join us in The Colossian Way experience. Training Dates The first step in The Colossian Way experience is a 2½-day leader training retreat, held in Grand Rapids, MI, on Wednesday-Friday, September 20-22. Can't make the September training? Our 2018 training retreat dates are posted on our events page. Commitments Churches and leaders who participate in The Colossian Way commit to: Attend the leader training retreat Meet with coaches and other small group leaders during the experience Gather an intergenerational group of 10-12 participants for the small group experience Lead the small group through ten 90-minute meetings over a set schedule in spring 2018 Cost Cost for The Colossian Way experience is $1,500 per small group, which includes the leader training retreat (hotel accommodations, meals, and training materials for two leaders), materials (leader and participant guides for the entire small group), The Colossian Way promotional pieces for your church, personal coaching for leaders, and membership in The Colossian Way Community of Practice. How to Apply You can find an online application and more information about The Colossian Way experience here. Can't make the September training? Our 2018 training retreat dates are posted on our events page. We can’t wait for you to join us on The Colossian Way!