Colossian Blog
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

Suggested Posts
Deeper Discipleship Needs an Effective Toolbox: An Interview with TCF’s Rob Barrett
July 26, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Deeper Discipleship Needs an Effective Toolbox: An Interview with TCF’s Rob Barrett
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!