Colossian Blog

Displaying all posts tagged "formation".
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.
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.
Why are You Interning Here? Formation.
June 28, 2017 | Trey Tirpak
Why are You Interning Here? Formation.
Information. We love it, don’t we? Just pull out your phone and explore a sea of facts and tales about the universe we inhabit. But navigating this sea of information has become quite a haunting endeavor. For so much of my life, I’ve been driven by the narrative that “if we just get the right facts – the right information – and put it in order, then we can fix things” or “if we just put our minds to the task then we can fix things.” This narrative also has an ultimate source where we get all the right "facts” from: the Bible. The best news about this source is that it’s simple; what we need to know is what the Bible says, plain and simple. There’s a long list of how this narrative is chock-full of truth while at the same time chock-full of misleading, secular/modern belief about the Bible and the God of it, our world, and ourselves. So, like many Christians who are seeking to navigate these seas well, I was asking questions like: What is truth? What is real? What is good? What is beautiful?   But the haunting thing for me is that so many answers to those questions are determined by how I’ve been formed as a person, and so I have to first ask about how to ask methodological questions. Like any discipline, there’s a method (a way) to inquire, investigate, inspect that’s proper, appropriate, and fitting. So, I’ve been finding myself asking questions like “what is faithful discernment?” or “what is the way that I’m going to take to answer these questions?” It’s a good task, but also a hard one, which is how I’ve come to The Colossian Forum. It’s discernment that draws me into The Colossian Forum, faithful discernment. You see, at The Colossian Forum, we know that the work of being a prudent, discerning Christian isn’t merely about gathering all the right information and all the right facts. Rather, it must first and foremost be about formation: who we are and who God is forging us to be. Only then can we truly address, answer, and faithfully discern questions. [embed]https://vimeo.com/47144995[/embed] What I’ve realized so far is that, in my theological journey, formation is what’s been left out of the conversations. The incarnational indwelling of the Spirit and what he is actively doing in my life has not been considered in my conversations or even considered valid. I’ve just been relying on my reasoning and my opinions and my vision of “how things are suppose to be” not even realizing how significantly these things have been formed in me by an outside world or how my disposition totally leaves God out of the picture.  [embed]http://vimeo.com/47144895[/embed] It’s because of realizing that I was my own idol – that it is my reasoning and my intellect and my vision of how things are supposed to be – that I’ve become convinced that I haven’t actually been having Christian, Christ-like conversations, and that I need to start practicing having authentically Christian discourse, especially when it comes to discerning things about the topics that The Colossian Forum engages. So formation is why I am interning here, and why I’ve come to cherish The Colossian Forum. TCF practices faith, hope, and love, not merely thinks about them. So, if you’re wondering what it might mean to step out in faith and discern things, come join the ship that’s trying to navigate these waters. "To be theological is not just about being intellectual. It’s also about our heart. Theology is something that’s not just in my head it’s what I live…” Rev. Wayne Coleman, Millbrook CRC, Grand Rapids, MI –– Born and raised on O'ahu Hawai'i, Trey Tirpak graduated from Calvin College in May 2017 with a B.A. in Religion while minoring in Congregational and Ministry Studies in Community Development and Pastoral Ministry. He is attending Western Theological Seminary in Holland Michigan, and is pursuing a Master of Divinity (MDiv) and Master of Social Work (MSW) while also seeking ordination in the Reformed Church in America (RCA). Trey is interning this summer at The Colossian Forum.
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.
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.