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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Celebrating God's Faithfulness in 2016
April 12, 2017 | Michael Gulker
Celebrating God's Faithfulness in 2016
God has provided abundantly for The Colossian Forum this year. He has built, grown, and blessed it. It belongs to him. We are thankful and humbled by your support in 2016 as we solidified the foundation for a successful launch of The Colossian Way—an intergenerational, small group journey that gathers Christians together in messy situations for the sake of discipleship. This experience cultivates Christian virtues, helping participants turn conflicts into opportunities for witness, spiritual growth, and transformation. You have been pioneers and visionaries with us as God does a new, transformative thing in the midst of his people! Here are a few highlights from 2016: Successfully piloted The Colossian Way in communities across the country We designed The Colossian Way experience to be more than curricula providing information on divisive topics. It’s also meant to be a formational tool equipping leaders to transform challenging issues into opportunities for deep discipleship and fellowship in an age of increasing polarization and fragmentation. This year, 10 Christian communities participated in a pilot of The Colossian Way. The communities comprised settings as diverse as churches, high schools, and colleges from Michigan to Colorado to Pennsylvania. Participants ranged in age from 15-85, and were as diverse ideologically as they were generationally. Throughout The Colossian Way experience, we received a regular stream of encouraging stories. One teenage girl, who began The Colossian Way journey feeling only marginally connected to her church, ended with a clear sense that “these are my people!” Another young man commented after the experience, “I don’t have any place in my life to talk seriously about divisive issues. The last place I expected it to happen was at my church! When are we going to do this again?” People, young and old alike, reported feeling called out of the fear and loneliness created by polarization into fellowship with one another and with God. Through the exceptional support and guidance of their leaders and coaches, believers captured the vision of The Colossian Way and carried it forward in their communities. Developed a 3-year strategic plan We spent a significant amount of time in prayer and discernment during the year laying out a 3-year strategic plan for The Colossian Forum, which our Board of Directors approved in the fall. The plan was a huge step forward in solidifying our mission, vision, and goals for the national launch of The Colossian Way. It also marked a major turning point in moving us from researching how The Colossian Way “works” to inviting believers across the country to join us on the journey. By equipping Christian communities to take on TCF’s transformational work, we set in motion the opportunity for an increasing number of believers to experience the dazzling truth that, even in the midst of conflict, “all things hold together in Christ” (Colossians 1:17). We look forward to even more stories of connection and growth as The Colossian Way expands and is adopted by Christian communities across the country. Established a new look, new location, and three new websites During the year, we unveiled a new logo for The Colossian Forum as well as a new tagline (Hope in Practice). Our original logo and tagline reflected an emphasis on faith and science topics while our new look highlights our broader mission and vision of inviting communities to transform a wide-range of culturally divisive issues into opportunities for discipleship and witness. In November, we moved to a new office space on the west side of Grand Rapids which provides additional room for staff expansion and collaborative working. The larger facility also allows more people to participate in gatherings and trainings for The Colossian Way. We also launched three new websites in 2016 that support our work: ColossianWay.org:Showcases The Colossian Way experience and shares the stories of our pilot groups. (Launched January 2016) TeachFASTly.com:Equips teachers to foster discipleship among students specifically at the intersection of faith and science. (Launched September 2016) ColossianForum.org:Highlights our core mission of equipping leaders to transform polarizing cultural conflict into opportunities for spiritual growth and witness. It also invites visitors to explore our current projects, upcoming events, our blog, and more about our staff and mission. (Launched October 2016) I am deeply grateful for all of you. It’s a joy to know that you are breaking new ground with us, praying for us, and sharing in this innovative work of proclaiming the good news of Christ’s peace afresh to this hurting and fragmented world. I look forward to the year ahead as we see what God has planned for The Colossian Forum and our small role in his kingdom work. Thanks be to God! Read more from our 2016 Annual Report. 
Everything We Need
April 5, 2017 | Michael Gulker
Everything We Need
Dear Friends, As Christians, we take it on faith that God has already given us everything we need to be faithful. Yet, we can’t help but wonder how this plays out as our churches shrink and age, our public influence declines, and we are every bit as divided as the surrounding culture—or more so. What does “everything we need” look like when tensions are high, when you feel strongly about a particular topic and are absolutely certain “they” have it completely wrong? Especially when that “they” includes friends, a spouse, children, or parents? In this world, we don’t always get what we want. Neither did Jesus: “Take this cup from me.” But we do get what we need: “Thy will be done.” And what we need to heal our fractured communities and lives is what we already have in abundance—opportunities to lay down our lives for those with whom we disagree as the means by which we learn to trust that the goodness of the Father is enough. Recently, I had the privilege of experiencing this “everything we need” up close through The Colossian Way. We thought we had gathered to talk about sexuality and marriage, but what we discovered was deep and abiding loneliness: loneliness of a sexual minority, loneliness of someone long widowed, loneliness of a divorcee, loneliness of a happily married man, loneliness of a woman who feared rejection if people knew what she “really” thought. We all had different thoughts about marriage, yet we shared a longing for communion and fellowship that won’t be fulfilled this side of heaven. In fact, we found that much of our disagreements about marriage were driven by our fears of loneliness. But in sharing that loneliness we found a fellowship with God and one another that was enough, a foretaste, a brief transfiguration of our lives giving us a glimpse of what will be. Perhaps more challengingly, God also revealed that he isn’t going to resolve our disagreements for us. Rather, by giving us these irresolvable dilemmas, he’s revealed our idolatrous fixation on what we want: certainty, resolution, security—all without having to lay down our lives. But we don’t get what we want. What we get is the call to participate in Christ’s own sacrificial love so that we and the world may know that he is Lord. Friends, it’s my prayer that this story will remind you of what you already know: the reconciling power of the gospel is everything we need. When we encounter the true and living God in these vulnerable spaces, when we have our lives transfigured by loving as Christ loves, this is when we realize afresh the secret of contentment: the gospel is TRUE! We rediscover in those moments that what we need has been there in front of us all along—the broken body of Christ, given for us. Thanks be to God! This post is excerpted from our April prayer letter. To receive the prayer letter in your inbox, click on the button below. Subscribe! To the monthly prayer letter.