Colossian Blog

Displaying all posts tagged "Community".
Reflections on Unity
May 24, 2017 | Josh Webb
Reflections on Unity
As a soon-to-be college graduate who is looking forward to heading out into the world, I’ve realized that I’m inheriting an American society that is more polarized than ever. Republicans hate Democrats, Democrats hate Republicans, and all of us are suspicious of those Independents. As I think about where I may find my next church home, I often read the statements of faith that many churches now publish on their websites. I ask myself if it’s a liberal church or a conservative church. I wonder what position their members and leadership take on gay marriage or evolution. Sometimes, from just a simple glance at a church web page, I uncharitably conclude that, “These aren’t the type of Christians I want to worship with”. I assume that I am not alone in this. Yet are we not one church? Do we not eat at one table, kneel at one cross, praise but one name? Across political, socioeconomic, and geographic divides, all Christians claim the same good news: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us and was resurrected. How, then, do we account for the incredible differences in opinion among Christians today and what exactly do we do about it? The Apostle Paul compares the church to a human body. Like a human body, the body of Christ is made up of many parts. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul writes, “Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit”. Each part of the body brings a different perspective, a different understanding, and has a different role to play. But no part can function on its own and all must work together to survive. Even in the tremendous diversity of the body, by God's power there is unity. This unity in Christ has been hard to see in recent times. Christians of differing theological understandings have resorted to schism and isolation rather than attempting the hard work of confronting conflict. And while it may seem easier for rival factions to simply go their separate ways, where is the Christian witness in running from difficult situations? Is our belief in God's power so small that we cannot fathom the bridging of our differences? Is our commitment to Jesus' command to love one another really so weak? Paul's words admonish our actions: "The eye can never say to the hand, 'I don’t need you.' The head can’t say to the feet, 'I don’t need you.'" Our Christian witness is not found in our ability to agree on all things. We are not called to be a church of mindless clones. That is the witness of human culture, which forces individuals to choose between agreement or exclusion. Instead, our Christian witness is found in the fact that we are one body of many disagreeing parts. Our witness is found in our diversity, in our humility, in our graciousness, in our love for God, and in our love for one another. This is something the world cannot offer, for only God can hold together such a messy, marvelous body. As it is written in Colossians 1:17-18 (TCF’s namesake verse), “in Christ all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church ….” Even with Christ as the head, disagreements will still exist among believers. But Christians have a choice when it comes to conflict in their churches. And when we choose to let Christ hold us together, we choose to receive the blessing of his saving grace and the power of his resurrection. The spiritual death that is enmity, division, and suspicion can be turned into a renewed life of love, unity, and understanding. I've seen it happen in my own life. I work at a church whose theological and political leanings differ from mine. Over the years, I've found myself becoming more critical and less gracious in my thoughts toward my church. But God has been working on my heart, and while I still don't agree with some of my church family, I've started loving them in a new way. Instead of loving my church family despite our disagreements, I've somehow come to love them because of those disagreements. I'm beginning to realize that my brothers and sisters who disagree with me are not some sort of trial or hardship, but an example of God's grace in my life. How else are we to experience God's grace and power if not through his ability to renew our lives in the midst of conflict and disagreement? I have been blessed with the time I've had as an intern at The Colossian Forum. My experience here has helped me come to a new understanding of what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. As I move forward into this next chapter of my life, I pray for opportunities to put this new perspective into practice, trusting that all things truly will hold together in Christ.
Global Reflections on Loneliness
May 3, 2017 | Michael Gulker
Global Reflections on Loneliness
Dear Friends, A humbling and rewarding aspect of writing and sending these prayer letters each month is hearing your feedback. Last month’s letter really struck a chord with many of you, as I shared about the underlying issue of loneliness that rose to the surface during a recent experience with The Colossian Way. A lot of our fear of conflict is rooted in our fear of loneliness. Interestingly, we also see that conflict can create and reinforce loneliness. In conflict, many of us tend to either withdraw from relationships and situations thereby becoming isolated, or fight with others who have different perspectives resulting in alienation and separation. One of the responses I received to last month’s prayer letter framed this matter through a global lens. Sandra Costen Kunz, a friend of TCF, recently taught Christian Education at Trinity Theological Seminary in Ghana, West Africa. Here are her international reflections on loneliness: It’s incredibly refreshing to have you name one of the primary “demons” driving the departures from “traditional sexual morality” in Ghana and the U.S.: fear of loneliness. It’s not just departures from that “traditional sexual morality” that are becoming the norm in Ghana and the U.S. now, but also departures from traditional understandings of the ties that bind children, adults, and the elderly together in long-term extended family networks through day-to-day relating, face-to-face time, and mutual care. In both the United States and Ghana, fear of loneliness also seems to be driving the frantic tone of both the ecclesiastical and political contentiousness around the following issues: How people form and fund household economies Where sexual activity fits into household economies How much face-to-face time the young and elderly (who don’t earn wages) enjoy with relatives who do earn wages How our society will support, via tax cuts, various configurations of household economies Naming the fear of loneliness as the root of much of the suffering driving ecclesiastical contentiousness reminded me of the powerful conversations that took place in my youth ministry courses in Ghana. My deeply thoughtful students connected the fear of loneliness with many kinds of suffering Ghanaian youth are experiencing due to changes in economic and sexual norms in that nation. We’re grateful for partners and friends, like Sandra, who help us stay connected with our deep theological core and challenge us to reframe and broaden our vision of a more beautiful church centered on the love of God and love of neighbor. This post is excerpted from our May prayer letter. To receive the prayer letter in your inbox, click on the button below. Subscribe! To the monthly prayer letter.
A Striking, Intelligent, and Respectful Dialog
April 26, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
A Striking, Intelligent, and Respectful Dialog
Last fall, we participated in an event at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, MI, called Beyond the Creation Wars. It featured talks on origins from our partners Darrel Falk and Todd Wood as well as expanded conversation about their journey together in friendship. We stumbled on this blog post written by Andrews student Mykhaylo Malakhov. He talks about the event, how it shaped him as a scientist, and how it embodied what universities stand for: Here was a roomful of scholars who hold vastly different views on a very controversial issue, yet they were engaging in intelligent, respectful dialogue, viewing each other as both real scientists and real Christians. To me, this was striking. All too often controversial issues such as origins are either approached through a debate format where each side tries to prove the other wrong or through an ecumenical, let's-forget-our-differences-and-focus-on-Jesus approach. It is either a battle to determine who is right or an utter disregard for truth as if it doesn't matter what we believe as long as we can agree on something. I always found both approaches unsatisfactory. The debate approach leads to anger and division, and both sides leave even more determined to keep fighting for their preconceived opinions. I cannot agree with the ecumenical approach either, because being a scientist myself I cannot say that it does not matter what one believes. Either 2+2=4 or it doesn't. Either a theorem is true or it isn’t. Either the earth is young or it is old. To set aside all controversial issues, especially ones as fundamental as the question of origins, would be to commit intellectual suicide. In other words, neither one of these approaches leads to any progress. Neither one leads its participants to a fuller and more accurate understanding of the world, and neither one will ever lead to a knowledge of truth. The Andrews Autumn Conference on Religion and Science, however, took an entirely different path. All attendees acknowledged that truth does matter, yet all agreed to seek that truth together in an open-minded approach where we not only respect each other, but sincerely acknowledge that each of us is a legitimate scientist and a sincere Christian. You can read the entire post here. Thanks for your insight, Mykhaylo!
TCF Website Wins ADDY Award
March 22, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
TCF Website Wins ADDY Award
Last month, The Colossian Forum's website won an a bronze ADDY Award from the American Advertising Federation of West Michigan. Our partners Grey Matter Group submitted TCF in the consumer website category. The ADDY Awards is the industry’s largest competition with over 40,000 entries showcasing the very best in markets from television ads, billboards, brochures, and websites. Nationwide, the American Advertising Awards attract more than 5 million entries each year. Needless to say, we were thrilled that our small religious nonprofit website was recognized in the same category as much larger companies like the Meijer grocery chain. A huge shout out to our partners at Grey Matter Group for their excellent work on our site!
New Job Opportunities at TCF
March 15, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
New Job Opportunities at TCF
We have two opportunities to join our team here at The Colossian Forum. One is a full-time position as a Manager of Church Partnerships and Care, and the other is a part-time, paid Library Intern. Manager of Church Partnerships and Care The key components of this position include: Expanding TCF’s network of church partners. Providing nurturing leadership in the formation of The Colossian Way (TCW) leaders. Designing, implementing, and leading the TCW Community of Practice. Ensuring TCF understands and exceeds our customer’s requirements and needs. You can read more about the responsibilities, qualifications, and how to apply on our jobs page. Special Library Intern This internship will focus on the development of special libraries for two non-profit organizations (TCF and Issachar Fund). The intern will work with staff from the two organizations to identify a viable Integrated Library System for our collections, procure the Integrated Library System and create the Integrated Library System’s base structure to meet the needs of the organizations, establish an intake and cataloging process for all new materials purchased by the organizations, train staff in use of the Integrated Library System and intake/cataloging process, and determine means for processing and loading currently owned materials into the Integrated Library System. You can read more about the responsibilities, qualifications, and how to apply on our jobs page.
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.