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What Does Practicing Virtue Look Like? A Study of Prudence
August 30, 2017 | Trey Tirpak
What Does Practicing Virtue Look Like? A Study of Prudence
One of the most important virtues for us to practice is the virtue of prudence. Contrary to popular belief, prudence doesn’t mean being stingy or too scared to act. Prudence is the practice of wisdom or seeing rightly.   Practicing the virtue of prudence is akin to actively resisting impulsive actions, like devouring that whole chocolate cake. Or not letting fearful and prideful passion overrun you in an anxious situation. Practicing prudence can also mean resisting stubbornness. We do these things until it becomes second nature to us. It’s wise not to eat the whole chocolate cake--that’s prudence. Let me give you an example of someone who practiced the virtue of prudence: In the movie Billy Elliot, a boy named Billy tries to be a boxer. He knew what boys did with their pastime: boys box. Those are the facts. There’s one small flaw: he’s horrible at boxing. One day Billy sees the ballet class going on next door. As he’s looking in at the class, Mrs. Wilkinson, the instructor, invites him in. She quickly sees that Billy has the capability to become a prolific ballet dancer. For Billy and his family, this can’t be true; boys don’t dance, they box. Those are the facts. Every impulse and passion of Billy’s community says that boys can’t be ballet dancers. The community is stubborn in what they think they know the truth is and should be. But it’s Mrs. Wilkinson’s good habit, practicing prudence, that enables her to see the truth that Billy isn’t a boxer, but an amazing dancer. Through practicing the virtue of prudence, Mrs. Wilkinson was able to show the truth that Billy was made to dance. What ended up happening was that the rest of their community came to more fully know both truth and love. In their conflict, a good habit got them to a new place they never knew was possible. Practicing virtues are the way that liberates us to actually know truth and love. It liberates us from our old selves which are impulsive, passion-driven, and stubborn. Practicing prudence allows the Holy Spirit to get to us. It’s letting the Holy Spirit lead us to where we too can be liberated of our own ideas of who we think God is. That’s what The Colossian Way is designed to do: liberate us from speaking past each other and missing out on truth and love. Come and Dance Friends, God is always speaking. Just like in the beginning, He’s speaking and creating something new, this time he’s making us anew.  He’s speaking through the Bible, but the Holy Spirit is also communicating to us as through prayer and through each other. Come join this dance, and learn to dance with truth and love.
Dancing with Truth and Love
August 23, 2017 | Trey Tirpak
Dancing with Truth and Love
Conversation is more about right relationship than right data. The Colossian Forum uses the power of conversation, but why? Throughout scripture we see that God is the God of language. God speaks and creation comes into being. God speaks to the Israelites through clouds, fire, judges, prophets, priests, and kings. God has always been trying to have a conversation with his people to tell them what truth and love is. The problem is, we messed up the conversation. We thought we knew what the facts were, and so then we didn’t need God. Truth and love got lost in our pride. God literally set the record straight by coming and having a conversation with us, as one of us. You see, God became human not to see what it’s like to be human, but rather so that we might know who he is! Here’s the kicker, though: Jesus didn’t merely tell us the right words –the right information– about God, but Jesus showed us who God is. Truth and love aren’t just facts to know like when the Civil War ended or something. Truth and love are a person: Jesus. What this means is that knowing truth and love is more so about being in a relationship than knowing information. So, if we want to know truth and love, we not only need to know Jesus’ words, but we need to be in relationship with him and then also become like Him. What am I talking about here? Practicing virtues are how we come to know truth and love Let’s think about truly knowing something. Take dancing as an example: If you want to learn to dance, you can study dancing in a book all day long, and maybe you'll even get to the point where you think you know what it means to dance. But there’s one problem with this: we don’t actually know what it means to be dancers until we start dancing ourselves.  To truly know how to dance, we need to practice dancing over and over again until it becomes second nature to us –part of who we are. By practicing dancing, we become dancers, and truly know what it means to dance. When we practice being like Jesus, we become like Jesus, and thus truly know what truth and love is. This is what the Colossian Way does: it has us practice good habits, habits that make us like Jesus.   We call these habits virtues.  And, if we’re going to be serious about both getting to know truth and love and then eventually holding them together, we’re going to have to take practicing virtues seriously.
From Conflict to Unity and a New Way Forward
August 16, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
From Conflict to Unity and a New Way Forward
We're honored that Pillar Church asked TCF president Michael Gulker to present on Conflict as Opportunity: Learning to Fight Like Jesus, as part of their Christ in the City series in Holland, Michigan. Christ in the City is focusing on how Christians can make peace with duality in the world. Topics covered include creation, gender, politics, the church body, and human sexuality. Pillar was the site of a denominational split in the 1850s. Like many tough conflicts, tensions were high, both sides entrenched in the truth as they believed it, and answers simply pointed to the growing divide. It came to a head when some members of Pillar Church locked other members out, went on to start a new church, which soon led to a new denomination. It's a familiar story of conflict and separation, even over 150 years later. Pillar's history is defined by division and conflict, and today they are the first church that is dually affiliated with the denominations involved in the split.  It's not an easy path, but a remarkable one that truly shows that "all things hold together in Christ" (Colossians 1:17). In our watchful, divided, and polarized world, we're thrilled to be partners with churches like Pillar who engage in deep discipleship and are proof of what it looks like when you turn conflict into opportunity. Here's the audio of Michael Gulker's presentation on learning to fight like Jesus. [audio mp3="http://colossianforum.org/site.2016/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Pillar_20170809_CITC.mp3"][/audio] Curious how we're helping make a more beautiful church? Our mission here at The Colossian Forum is to equip leaders to transform cultural conflicts into opportunities for spiritual growth and witness. We want to see a more beautiful church, one that acts Christian, especially in the face of conflict. Check out our series of three short videos that introduces The Colossian Way. The first covers wicked problems. [embed]https://vimeo.com/180640688[/embed] The second tackles Christian virtues: [embed]https://vimeo.com/187857994[/embed] And the third outlines how we see conflict as opportunity here at TCF. [embed]https://vimeo.com/180188904[/embed] We have a short video discussion guide that accompanies this video series. To access it, email us at info@colossianforum.org. Simply mention videos in the subject line. When you email us, we'll also send you our Top Ten Frequently Asked Questions to help guide your discipleship journey. One Last Thing The Colossian Forum shot a video at Pillar Church a few years ago that highlights our foundation in faith, science, and culture, and how that important conversation is a stepping stone to deeper discipleship and Christian witness. Enjoy! [embed]https://vimeo.com/32912914[/embed]
What Kind of People Does Endless Doing Create Us to Be?
August 8, 2017 | Michael Gulker
What Kind of People Does Endless Doing Create Us to Be?
Our society imagines itself as one of doing, accomplishment, and endless potential. Our work usually centers on achievement, performance, and mastering the next set of skills. Our families revolve around myriad activities and school structures (which train our children for the workplace). Our churches constantly look for the next new thing—a goal, an outreach, a youth program, a worship leader—that will help us grow the kingdom of God. Our personal lives can seem like an endless merry-go-round of multi-tasking, anxiety, and thinking about the next thing. If we believe our spiritual journey is somehow exempt from these constant formative pressures, we are badly mistaken. Take a moment to reflect. Sabbath rest seems mythical, easily co-opted for another day of task completion. In the endless pursuit of what might be, who’s got time to stop and give thanks for what already IS? As you pray through this, I’d invite you to stop and ponder, “What kind of people does this endless doing make us to be? Spiritual formation into the image of Christ is a core commitment of The Colossian Forum because everything we do forms us. Spiritual formation just IS. Everything we do either makes us Christ-like or less like Christ. The things we participate in, see, experience, and even avoid shape and form our spirits. Especially in the middle of messy conflict, where our default is to DO: make the dazzling argument, and efficiently prove to everyone that my way is the best way so we can get on to the next thing. Perform, argue, impress, DO. What would conflict look like if, instead of that human, self-focused doing, we were grounded in practices of Christ-focused being? Perhaps we must first BE in the presence of Christ, if we’re going to be present to one another. Truthfully, given my own formation in a performance-oriented culture, this is not my default behavior. I’m usually crafting the perfect zinger in my head long before my conversation partner is finished speaking. But if I’m not called simply to win the argument, what am I supposed to say or even pray? Too often, I simply don’t know. Thankfully, Scripture shows us we’re not alone in this not knowing. Paul seems to take it for granted when he says, “likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). This passage comes right before Romans 9-11, Paul’s largely failed attempt to understand how God’s promises to the Jews are still valid even as they reject the risen Lord. It’s a dilemma we’re still befuddled by 2,000 years later. Unresolved conflict is part of the mystery of faith, but what’s not a mystery is God’s faithfulness to us, already, now, without our having to DO anything other than respond in joy to what IS. Pray for us, for yourselves, for the wider church, as we seek to be people of joy in the midst of conflict. Thank you for being on this journey with us. This post is excerpted from our August prayer letter. To receive the prayer letter in your inbox, click on the button below. Subscribe! To the monthly prayer letter.
From Complication and Frustration to A Third Place
August 2, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
From Complication and Frustration to A Third Place
Often people think that what we do at The Colossian Forum centers around conflict resolution and agreeing to disagree. Those simple phrases don't quite capture how reframing the conversation around love of God and love of neighbor can truly transform messy situations into deep spiritual growth and witness. That's why this eight-minute video from Parker Palmer is so illuminating. This Quaker elder and educator shares about finding a third space in the middle of polarizing sides clashing. He acknowledges that when conversation around difficult issues involves us throwing conclusions at one another, it's not a conversation worth having because it won't go anywhere worth going. The centrality of right relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters is vital to holding complexity all the way to new possibilities. Here at TCF, we're the first to admit that us humans are complicated and the topics we delve into are complicated. But we believe there's a way forward. We've seen it happen. This video helps articulate the deeper third space this process and framing inhabits. We hope it will help identify, clarify, and move you forward. Thanks to our partners at Long Beach Christian Fellowship, who shared this video with us and plan to use it to explain The Colossian Way to their church.
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.”