Colossian Blog
March 8, 2017 | Michael Gulker

Leaning Into the Messy Togetherness

During our second pilot of The Colossian Way, I’ve had the unique privilege of participating in one group, leading another, and coaching leaders of two other groups. I relish this time with fellow believers and participants in The Colossian Way.

In one session, we opened with a reflection on Ephesians 4.After describing all Christ has done for us in the preceding chapters, Paul urges us in this chapter to live worthy of our calling by taking up humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance in order to maintain our unity. Our group discussed these virtues fruitfully and then committed to practice them together. Soon after, we watched a video on the sexuality topic which voiced a viewpoint completely opposite to some of our participants. One member of the group took offense. She was frustrated with the viewpoint, felt it as an attack, and understandably wanted some time to process and respond.

My temperature immediately went up. Couldn’t this group member listen to the speaker rather than attack? What about our recent commitment to express humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance? Like a protective parent, I immediately rushed to the defense of The Colossian Way program. In my hasty approach, I displayed none of the fruit of the Spirit we had just discussed.

Fortunately for me, the leaders of the group had cooler heads, and they diffused the situation by gently asking questions: “Do we need to decide if he’s right or wrong? Or can we just try to hear him? Do we need to defend him or argue against him? What might humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance look like for us here tonight, together?”

Talk about a “come to Jesus” moment. This is why we can’t do this alone.

Yet, I fear that most participants entering The Colossian Way will look to avoid the messy togetherness. Instead, they will begin the experience with the false expectation they’re going to delve deeply into the mysteries of human sexuality and scriptural interpretation, and argue their way through to a commonly held answer. But fully engaging a topic as complex as sexual identity in ten weeks is a fantasy that will derail what’s supposed to be happening: growing a Christian community that acts like Christ in the midst of tough cultural conflicts. Then again, my own fears about how the program might fail may also derail what’s supposed to be happening!

There are many ways we can fail in these conversations. But in the very act of joining together and bumping up against each other’s folly, every failure has the potential to be a moment of grace, a moment of insight, a moment to encounter God’s reconciling power and love for us right in the middle of our muddle. I am so grateful for those wise souls who are able, in that messy middle, to see Jesus and point us to him. What a joy to be with such folks.

And as our work moves beyond the pilot phase and launches this May in churches across the country, I yearn to see how God works in others to take up this vision of a Christian community that acts like Christ, especially during these times of conflict and polarization. We might just come to realize how desperately we, and our world, need the other in the midst of community to cultivate the virtues of humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance. We covet your prayers as we move into this new phase of our mission at The Colossian Forum.

This post is excerpted from our March prayer letter. To receive the prayer letter in your inbox, click on the button below.

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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!