Colossian Blog

Displaying all posts tagged "Colossian Way".
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!
TCF Welcomes Student Intern Rebecca Murdock
July 5, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
TCF Welcomes Student Intern Rebecca Murdock
TCF welcomes Rebecca Murdock to a one-year student internship, which begins this summer. Rebecca is studying The Colossian Way for her master’s thesis, and also participating in research projects for The Colossian Forum. She is originally from Loma Linda, CA, but grew up in Puerto Rico, Michigan, and Massachusetts as a pastor/professor’s kid. Fed up with snowy winters in Massachusetts, she returned to her old California neighborhood and completed a bachelor’s degree in Communication, Public Relations & Advertising from La Sierra University in Riverside, CA. After graduation, she spent several years doing marketing and recruiting for her alma mater before her interest in theology began to take center stage. Around the same time, she and her fiancée, J. (James) Murdock, were married and moved to Boulder, CO. J. began work as an associate pastor for the Seventh-day Adventist church in Boulder and Rebecca focused on the formation of young adult church groups in the area. After one year getting settled in Boulder, J. was sponsored to complete his Master of Divinity at Andrews University's Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, MI, and the couple transferred to cooler climates. Rebecca also began her master’s at Andrews Seminary, and is currently completing a Master of Arts in Theological Studies. Some of her passions include listening to eclectic music, traveling, learning languages, talking about gender communication, and dreaming up what church looks like for the next generation. She is currently part of a student group to better Christian-Muslim relations in Michigan, and is interested in helping those on seemingly opposite ends of a spectrum find common ground. She and J. hope to start a family one day, but currently might adopt a kitten in the near future. Welcome, Rebecca!
Unsure How to Lead Through Conflict? Start Here!
June 14, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Unsure How to Lead Through Conflict? Start Here!
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!
Finding the Next Faithful Step
June 7, 2017 | Michael Gulker
Finding the Next Faithful Step
Dear Friends, In our journey together into the heart of church conflict, many of you have noted that The Colossian Forum doesn’t provide a set of “answers” regarding divisive issues, but challenges Christians to practice trusting that all things already hold together in Christ. If we live out of this trust, seeking to hold truth and love together amidst our differences, the Holy Spirit will act to bring forth something new, lead us into all truth, and provide the vision for the next step of faithfulness. At TCF, we have the honor of seeing God act in amazing ways, creating friendships across political and ideological divides that are nothing short of miraculous. Yet delight across difference doesn’t do away with the fact that we still have to make decisions about how we’re going to live together. This means, according to the world’s narrative, there will be winners and losers. When a gay couple asks to be married in a specific church, there is either a “yes” or a “no,” regardless of how deep the love and delight we’ve discovered in others with whom we disagree. So how do we make decisions as churches and institutions while still disagreeing? How do we elevate love of God and love of neighbor when there are clear winners and losers? Well, since we don’t have the answer to this question, it’s one more occasion to practice holding truth and love together, praying the Holy Spirit would provide the vision for the next step of faithfulness. And we’ve been praying for this a long time. One of our Colossian Way participants is a key leader in her church and when confronted with this either-or, winner-loser question, she responded in a surprising and Spirit-creative way. She noted that she’d been living as the “loser” in her church for over 20 years, but remained committed both to the church and to the people who disagreed with her. She didn’t give up what she believed. She didn’t walk away. And she doesn’t want those who disagree with her to give up and walk away either. Instead she wants them to continue to live committed to corporate faithfulness with her and the church for another 20 years. Maybe, just maybe, through their continued life together, the Spirit will lead them more deeply into truth. The future is uncertain. But what seems more certain is that if she had left 20 years ago, or if those on the opposite side of the issue leave now, the possibility for the Spirit to act in their midst is diminished. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can walk The Colossian Way. We can live together. We can experience a foretaste of heavenly communion on earth. But on this side of the second coming, there are going to be times when, at least in the world’s frame, there are winners and losers. There will be pain. There will be loss. There will be sacrifice. Can we take that on? Can we live out of Christ’s victory that has not yet fully come? Can we show the world a better frame—a more interesting story? How might we act differently? How might we stick together in these moments in new and interesting ways? A lot of us are facing these realities right now in our churches and institutions. It’s tough, gut-wrenching work. Here at TCF, we’re praying for you as you discern the next faithful step in “making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). The Holy Spirit will act if we come open-handed, recognizing our need for the Spirit’s action. But will we have eyes to see it when it happens? Will we have the courage to follow the Spirit’s lead? We join you in praying for God to move and act as the church discerns the next faithful step in our current dilemmas. This post is excerpted from our June prayer letter. To receive the prayer letter in your inbox, click on the button below. Subscribe! To the monthly prayer letter.
The Unpredictable Practice of Showing Up
May 31, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
The Unpredictable Practice of Showing Up
Today we welcome Jeremy Bork to The Colossian Blog. Jeremy is a 2017 graduate of Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. Living into his call to youth ministry and love of creation, he will serve this summer as the Assistant Chaplain at Camp Fowler, an RCA wilderness camp in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. He recently accepted a call to Westminster Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids, and will transition into that role in the fall. He participated in a Colossian Way pilot group earlier this year. Last spring I was asked to participate in a small group at Fellowship Reformed Church to test out and offer feedback for a curriculum that sought to engage church conflict around human sexuality. Without much consideration of what they were asking and what I’d be getting into, I said yes. I would later learn that small yes was a greater yes to The Colossian Way, and that yes would come with a cost. For the next ten weeks I gathered every Thursday with members of Fellowship to listen, wrestle, pray, play, apologize, testify, and give thanks. Resisting the world’s seduction toward division, we showed up, sat around one table, read the same sacred texts, prayed to the One we all follow, told our stories, and shared our visions for the future and present of the church. We chose community over tribe, hospitality over hostility, empathy over judgment, and compassion over fear. The Colossian Way insists that participants speak their truth in love. Both words matter. First, truth: say what you need to say. Don’t water it down to get everyone in the room to agree with you. At best that leads to a superficial, integrity-lacking illusion of unity. Instead speak fully and boldly the truth you need to say. Second, love: speak kindly and compassionately. Never say something to intentionally hurt another person. Be aware of the effects your words might have on another, and be ready to receive how someone else experiences your truth. During these ten weeks, we tried our best to speak our truths in love, but too often our gentle, West-Michigan-nice fronts walled us from faithfully speaking our convictions. During our last meeting, Brian broke the barrier. He turned to me and shared about how badly he wants to love me but how his traditional convictions about biblical texts that address same-sex behavior haven’t changed. He genuinely wanted to know how his beliefs affected me and what he could tangibly do to make me feel loved. I thanked him for his honesty and responded transparently. I shared about my sincere thankfulness for our friendship and that he loves me best when he listens to my story to understand and not to respond. I also shared that while I would perhaps worship at Fellowship sometime, I would never bring my boyfriend. Our vulnerability opened others in the room to share what they had wanted to for nine weeks. It was sloppy and beautiful. Let’s Talk LGBTQ With current denominational and institutional divisions around beliefs about LGBTQ people, the student counsel at Western Theological Seminary (my very recent alma mater) felt like this was a needed topic to address. Considering I had been at Western for three years without a single public conversation about something that affected me so directly, I felt like this was long overdue. Together we pitched a community conversation to the seminary leadership. Once the event was approved, it only made sense that it would be facilitated by representatives from The Colossian Way, considering they are what we hope to be: a community that creates space for people to willingly, bravely, and hopefully enter into conflict trusting that Christ holds all things together. Their vision is honorable but uncommon: Christian communities that behave like Christ. On Tuesday, April 25, the Student Counsel of Western Theological Seminary hosted a community conversation titled Staying in the Dialogue in the Midst of Difference: Let’s Talk LGBTQ. As a result of student counsel’s organization, Stacey Duensing’s tenacity, and my pestering, the seminary took an important first step: breaking the silence. I was a panelist for the discussion, along with Brian, the pastor of Fellowship and fellow participant of the TCW group the year before. While on the panel, Brian asked if I felt like “The Token Gay” during last year’s pilot. I grinned and spoke my truth: “Absolutely! But it didn’t bother me, because I knew going in that that’s what I would be. It was important enough to me that an actual LGBTQ person was part of the pilot that I was willing to be that person. It also didn’t bother me, because it was only for 90 minutes a week. At the end of our meeting, I could walk away. That has not been true during my three years at Western. I don’t get to walk away. I am the token gay always. As much as I wear my pain-avoidant smile, being me here is exhausting. I hadn’t realized just how depleting seminary has been for me, and I don’t think I’ve completed grasped how long it will take to heal, to be restored, to return to being just Jeremy.” For a moment I was heard, I was seen, I was known. Unlike the countless walks through the halls wondering who affirms my presence and who wishes I wasn’t around, I sat grateful for the chance to name what is true and hopeful that in opening myself others might do likewise. The conversation continued. Rob asked more questions. Brian and I stayed in the dialogue. We listened curiously, shared truthfully, and questioned genuinely. Our words were unscripted yet deeply formed by our love of God our love for one another. Some who attended the community conversation were upset that Brian and I hugged after we shared such blatantly opposing beliefs on the panel. Noticing the power difference between the two of us, they were uncomfortable that our gesture implied all LGBTQ people should be reconciled to their non-affirming elders to the point of physical embrace. While I understand where they are coming from, Brian and I didn’t fabricate a friendship on April 25. We are actually, authentically friends. We drink coffee and talk about church leadership. When we run into each other at the gym, we sacrifice a squat to catch up with one another. We hugged after the panel, because we have a past, we will have a future, and we are grateful for one other in the present, despite all the ways our friendship is complex. I believe in The Colossian Way, because I believe in the way of Jesus. The ideas of The Colossian Way are not new, but they are radical. It is the simple and unpredictable practice of showing up. It is a foretaste – not a glimpse but a first taste – of the life to come where there’s enough, where everyone belongs, where all of life is connected. It’s an invitation to a way of peace, unity, and empathy rooted in the disciplines of Jesus, and saying yes to this lifestyle will come at a cost. For me, it has required bravery, vulnerability, fierce truth telling, and active listening. At times it has been tiring, irritating, and lonely. But it has been worth it. I have felt the Spirit move in surprising ways. I have seen God’s image revealed in unexpected people. I have heard a fuller telling of the good news of God’s love. I have tasted and seen that Christ truly does hold all things together.
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.