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Leaning Into the Messy Togetherness
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. Subscribe! To the monthly prayer letter.
Applications Now Being Accepted for The Colossian Way Experience
March 1, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Applications Now Being Accepted for The Colossian Way Experience
We’re excited to announce that applications are now being accepted for small groups to engage in The Colossian Way experience. We designed The Colossian Way 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. Training Dates The first step in The Colossian Way experience is a 2½-day leader training retreat, held in Grand Rapids, MI on these dates: Thursday-Saturday, May 18-20, 2017 (sexuality topic only) or Wednesday-Friday, September 20-22, 2017 (sexuality and origins topic) 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 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. Be on the lookout for 2018 training retreat dates posted soon on our events page. We can’t wait for you to join us on The Colossian Way!
Growing Virtuous Youth through an Origins Symposium
February 22, 2017 | Andy Saur
Growing Virtuous Youth through an Origins Symposium
Students at Front Range Christian School in Littleton, Colorado prepped for months to participate in the all-day Origins Symposium that was held at their school in late January. They met in their weekly small groups to discuss faith-and-science questions, worked through teachFASTly activities in their Bible and science classes, and registered for breakout sessions on topics as varied as “How would a young-earth creationist explain ape man fossils?” to “Is it appropriate to go to the Bible for scientific truth?” But even with that preparation, many were unprepared for the experience of listening to TCF partners Darrel Falk and Todd Wood explain their different perspectives on human origins. How is it that two faithful Christians could disagree so significantly on such an important issue and still care for each other? Who had the “right answer” to the origins question? When teachers heard their students voicing these questions, they knew the symposium was on the right track. As Kevin Taylor, director of the school’s Veritas et Caritas Institute, explains: “We want our community to be able to speak their convictions with boldness and courage, but also be able to hold love as part of the process too.” To know one’s convictions, a person has to understand both what he or she is moving toward and away from. Even as the students began forming their own opinions on the origins topic through what they learned in preparation for and at the symposium, they also started developing an equally important skillset of holding in tension their growing opinion on the issue with their care for a Christian brother or sister who holds a different viewpoint. This hard work of forming thoughtful disciples of Christ is at the heart of The Colossian Forum’s mission and we were delighted to partner with Front Range Christian School to continue this work among its student body through this symposium. And we whole-heartedly echo the words of Kevin Taylor: “When the world looks at the church, I’d like them to see it appealing because we behave virtuously and civilly in a world so polarized.”
Meet Our Board Members
February 15, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Meet Our Board Members
Here at The Colossian Forum, our staff is one part of a greater team of partners, fellows, and advisors. The wisdom, direction, ideas, and challenges provided are a key part of shaping our mission, vision, and ministry. We're pleased to introduce you to The Colossian Forum's Board of Directors! Our board provides strategic and practical oversight to The Colossian Forum and serve faithfully through leadership, governance, and approving policies. Each brings a wealth of unique and diverse experiences and wisdom to TCF and are unified in their commitment to equip leaders to transform polarizing conflict into deeper spiritual witness. We now have pictures and short bios of all of our board members online. You can meet our Board of Directors here (along with our staff and fellows).
Becoming a People of Truth
February 8, 2017 | Michael Gulker
Becoming a People of Truth
Having spent three days drinking weak hotel coffee, my friend and I are eager for a strong cup of joe. Finding a coffee shop in the airport, we place our orders. While waiting, my friend inquires of the barista her country of origin. The barista smiles tentatively and responds in her rich African accent, “I’m sorry, what did you ask?” My friend asks again, this time with a smile, and she replies, “Ethiopia.” “How long have you been in the U.S.?” “A year,” she responds. “And has it been a good year?” “Mostly, yes,” she says. “Well, thanks for the coffee … and welcome to America.” A small, seemingly meaningless act of kindness in an unkind and uncaring world can be, rightly understood, a remarkable act of defiance—an embodiment and foretaste of the hope we all long for. I wonder if our barista trusted that small kindness. Or if, in the midst of our political situation and the TV news playing behind her head, these questions only register as threats. The next night, back home in my church small group, one member hesitantly offers a prayer for the immigrants caught in limbo. The room goes quiet. Should someone else pray for national security? Have we broken protocol? No one knows the answer, but we all feel the fragmentation of our divided body, right there in our living room. The left fears the right; the right fears the left. Yet both the left and right agree the world would be better off if their team was more firmly in control. Small acts of kindness and glimpses of hope are harder when so much seems to be at stake. How did we get to this point? And where to do we go from here? Recently, theologian Tom Wright shared a talk focused on speaking truth to power (which sounds so noble, but truthfully I’d settle for being able to speak truth to my small group). Fortunately, his talk also captured how we become a people of the truth and how to discover the lies that speak through us. To do that, we have to expose the idolatry that has set up shop in many of our own living rooms. Let me quote Wright, who says it better than most. At the heart of the biblical story: Creation itself is understood as a kind of Temple, a heaven-and-earth duality, where humans function as the “image-bearers” in the cosmic Temple, part of earth yet reflecting the life and love of heaven. This is how creation was designed to function and flourish: under the stewardship of the image-bearers … Called to responsibility and authority within and over the creation, humans have turned their vocation upside down, giving worship and allegiance to forces and powers within creation itself. The name for this is idolatry. The result is slavery and finally death … We humans have thus, by abrogating our own vocation, handed our power and authority to nondivine and nonhuman forces, which have then run rampant, spoiling human lives, ravaging the beautiful creation, and doing their best to turn God’s world into a hell (and hence into a place from which people might want to escape). Wright, N.T (2016). The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion. New York, NY: HarperOne. I find that hell has invaded my living room. And I’ve opened the door to it by putting the nation (specifically, one political party of the nation) in the place where Christ belongs. I’m guessing I’m not alone. I’d invite us all during this time of fragmentation, anger, and misunderstanding, to pray for clarity about our idolatry, and see if restoring Christ to the center gives us just enough imagination for one small act of kindness—especially in the middle of our living rooms. This post is excerpted from our February prayer letter. To receive the prayer letter in your inbox, click on the button below. Subscribe! To the monthly prayer letter.
A New Book: Evolution and the Fall
February 1, 2017 | Christopher R. Brewer
A New Book: Evolution and the Fall
Rooted in communities of practice, we here at The Colossian Forum seek to equip leaders to transform messy cultural conflicts into opportunities for spiritual growth and witness. That said, a variety of resources are needed to equip or train these leaders so that they might be enabled to transform messy cultural conflicts into opportunities for spiritual growth and witness. We recognize that behavioral change takes time, often requiring numerous “touches” before a shift is observed. Moving from the common engagement strategy of competition to one of communion requires imagination––a new image, or series of images––what some have called a “traditioned innovation.” TCF sees publishing as one means to build and support a network of leaders practicing The Colossian Way, bringing value in the following ways: To capture (miracle) stories and learnings so they can be disseminated more widely. To provide mental images or pictures of the move from chaos and competition to conversation and communion. To invite leaders into a deeper contemplation of texts important to TCF’s formation and current ministry. To provide deeper, complementary training tools for The Colossian Way. To support the gathering of small groups willing to face into the fear and confusion that stems from cultural conflict, a concrete attempt to re-imagine faithful practice. Evolution and the Fall We have been working on a number of publishing projects over the course of the past year, and one of these has just been released: Evolution and the Fall, edited by William T. Cavanaugh and James K.A. Smith, and published by Eerdmans. Evolution and the Fall represents the culmination of three years of intense work with some of the church’s brightest theologians, biblical scholars, philosophers, historians, and scientists. The interdisciplinary group wrestled with a wide array of theological tensions resulting from evolutionary science and the doctrine of the Fall. As Christian scholars who take seriously the pressures of both science and faith, their shared goal is the shaping of an intellectual imagination that is “carried” in the practices of Christian worship. Practically, this means that their intellectual work is pursued as an act of service to God and to the church, with prayer and worship framing their questions and influencing the range of possible answers. The concerns of fellow believers are engaged and responded to with the “love pursuing truth” that ought to distinguish us as followers of Christ. Evolution and the Fall is available from the publisher at a 30% discount using the code 1071 at checkout (through May 31, 2017). If you prefer ordering by mail, you can send in this form for the discount.