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TCF Welcomes Student Intern Josh Webb
January 18, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
TCF Welcomes Student Intern Josh Webb
Last week, The Colossian Forum welcomed Josh Webb as our new student intern in the Operations and Communications department. Josh is an undergraduate student at Calvin College, where he studies in the religion and music departments. He will be working with us during the spring semester as he completes his degree. Along with his studies and internship, Josh works part-time as the Director of Music Ministries at Leighton United Methodist Church in Caledonia. He and his wife, Kate, married in June of 2015 and currently live in Jenison. Together they enjoy hiking, traveling, and movie marathons! Josh was drawn to The Colossian Forum by a shared passion for seeking grace and discipleship through conflict in the church. He is also looking to gain new work experience before graduating. He will be assisting TCF in several areas including weekly marketing and communications tasks, compiling and editing an e-book, and a market research project. Welcome to the team, Josh!
Finding Our Limits
January 11, 2017 | Michael Gulker
Finding Our Limits
Dear Friends, Many people undertake a practice of reflection during the holidays and in preparation for a new year. In that spirit, I took time to reflect on God’s blessings and provision here at The Colossian Forum over the past year. Perhaps the greatest gift of 2016 is one that came as a surprise: our limits. Not that we’re surprised to have limits, we’re quite aware of them (along with our flaws). No, the surprise was in how the limits themselves became gifts. Of course, limits don’t always feel like gifts, especially in our achievement-crazed culture. Throughout 2016 we kept bumping up against them though: financial limits, time limits, and limits of our abilities. As a creature of our culture, I have to confess these limits often didn’t register as gifts at the time. But as finite creatures of a good God, we can learn to receive limits as gifts meant for our good. For instance, through our limits we learned to depend upon each other as teammates. We had to rely on friends to help us where we couldn’t help ourselves. For example, despite the fact that we didn’t have the financial resources to run the Beyond the Creation Wars conference in October, Andrews University allowed conversation and friendship with our partners Darrel Falk and Todd Wood to continue to unfold. Our friends at Front Range Christian Schools in Littleton, CO are likewise hosting a public conference with Darrel and Todd at the end of this month, again, largely without our help. We also discovered new friends we didn’t know we had because of our limits. Some of these friends helped us take our work in new and exciting directions that we couldn’t have imagined. Others simply took our work and ran with it in new directions without us. We had to let go of control. And in doing so, we found that God is quite capable of running the cosmos even when we’re not at the helm. Go figure . . . We are still facing limits in this new year. The demand for The Colossian Way experience continues to grow and now well exceeds our funding base. How much of that need we are able to meet lies outside our control. Numerous organizations have contacted us desiring to take on and help distribute The Colossian Way. We certainly want to broadly circulate what we’ve learned and are grateful and humbled by these potential partners. Still, we’re not sure if or how those partnerships will happen. But we’re learning to trust that God will continue to provide in unexpected ways. My prayer is that we all grow in our awareness and gratitude for the different ways God’s provision touches our lives and our world. This may even take the form of being thankful for our limits! In this new year, I hope our limits will keep before us the truth that it is God, and not us, who’s doing the work. We truly appreciate all of you who keep supporting The Colossian Forum in your prayers, your volunteering, your gifts, and your limits. This post is excerpted from our January prayer letter. To receive the prayer letter in your inbox, click on the button below. Subscribe! To the monthly prayer letter.
I Trust You
January 4, 2017 | Michael Gulker
I Trust You
A friend shared this video with me recently: Karim Sulayman - I trust you from Meredith Kaufman Younger on Vimeo. I am so moved by how vulnerability is the condition of the possibility of peace. I am also moved by how deeply Christological this vulnerability is. It gives us a vision of what is possible through vulnerability like Christ's own vulnerability, coming to us as a poor child. Yet, without the resurrection, the world can't afford this kind of vulnerability. Because while this beautiful witness evokes the possibility of human goodness, especially when it costs us nothing other than a hug (however beautiful), we need a response to when vulnerability is rejected and crucified. What a blessing. We need such imagination.
We're Changing What it Looks Like for Christians to Disagree--and It Can Be Beautiful
December 28, 2016 | Michael Gulker
We're Changing What it Looks Like for Christians to Disagree--and It Can Be Beautiful
If you’re like me, you are especially hungry for the peace and goodwill this season promises. It’s been a particularly divisive year, featuring quarrelsome politics, ongoing race wars, and increasingly vocal disagreement across a range of social and economic issues. In families, churches, and society—conflict, fear, and ill abound. More than ever, Christians of all ages and theological positions are caught in disagreements that ought to be opportunities for growth rather than obstacles. Too often our zeal for truth leads to verbal assaults and tarnished reputations. At the family and local church level, this often results in divisions and infighting, which leads to frustration, embarrassment, and uncertainty (especially among millennials and youth). The tough questions alone aren’t harmful, but the unloving behavior displayed at the expense of grace and love certainly can be. The church's brand problem On a large scale, this has created a brand problem for the church: people both inside and outside the church think Christ’s bride has lost her beauty. The church may be right, but she’s no longer attractive. Those outside the church are turned off by words and attitudes that are often less loving and compassionate than those offered by non-Christians. At the same time, those inside the church leave (as confirmed by studies such as Pew's comprehensive study on declining church attendance and the ever-increasing tribe of “nones”). These days, it seems like more people are ducking out the back doors of churches than are coming in the front. How we're helping At The Colossian Forum, we’re pioneering new ways of engaging difficult conversations. The Colossian Way leader training, coaching, and small group resources provide an effective, scalable program that equips pastors and lay leaders to change the way our churches think about and handle challenging issues. Little by little, we’re changing what it looks like for Christians to disagree—and it can be beautiful. It’s only with your support that we can help the church be a place where people are loved collectively, even across difference, rather than judged individually before they walk out the door. Together we can make church a place where every relationship is an opportunity to see Jesus. And I can think of nothing more important for this fragmented world than for it to see Jesus in people like you and me, especially when we disagree. Help us build a church that people run to and not from.
TCF Awarded Grant from Templeton Religion Trust for The Colossian Way
December 21, 2016 | Jennifer Vander Molen
TCF Awarded Grant from Templeton Religion Trust for The Colossian Way
In this time of giving and gratitude, we’re happy to announce that The Colossian Forum received a grant from the Templeton Religion Trust to equip and prepare The Colossian Way for broader distribution. The Colossian Way is an intergenerational, small group process that gathers Christians together in messy situations for the sake of discipleship. The experience cultivates Christian virtues, helping participants turn conflicts into opportunities for witness, spiritual growth, and transformation. Phase One of this project focused on research, planning, and preparing The Colossian Way with significant input from both the academy and the church. Phase Two centered on the development of The Colossian Way curricula, training program, and support network. Phase Three (which this grant helps fund) will equip The Colossian Way for a broader launch by providing funding for strategic planning, market research, published resources, and marketing strategies. We’re grateful for partners like Templeton Religion Trust for their continued support of The Colossian Way.
Setting Off on The Colossian Way
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!