Colossian Blog

Displaying all posts tagged "TCF Mission".
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.”
Lessons in Transparency
July 12, 2017 | Michael Gulker
Lessons in Transparency
Dear Friends, Recently, I’ve been reading Being Disciples: Essentials of the Christian Life, by Rowan Williams. I was immediately struck by Williams’ introductory remarks that pursuing deeper Christian commitment isn’t done by reading books. Rather, it is accomplished “by the daily effort to live in a way that allows Jesus Christ to come through in our lives; we are caught up in the task of showing that what we say is credible.” We serve as effective disciples when we are “transparent to Christ” in our thoughts, speech, and actions. According to Williams, our task is to live in a way that dispels the murkiness obscuring Christ’s presence; thus, empowering us to grow in love of God and neighbor. By being transparent to Christ across time, we slowly become people who live as “credible” disciples—literally giving credence to our words. Our sidesteps and missteps as much as our successes give us daily opportunities to display Christ as his forgiveness and humility permeate our life together. Dave Odom, executive director of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, visited us a few weeks ago to facilitate a discussion on TCF’s work and culture. One of our big “a-ha” moments of painful transparency came when he observed that some of our staff (myself included) work as if our mission is a sprint instead of a marathon; this is despite the fact that we know our vision of a Christian community that acts like Christ, especially in the face of conflict, will not be accomplished in a life time. Although we are encouraged daily by stories of transformation, ours is a marathon vision that requires a measured and disciplined pace. When we view our work as a sprint, failing to take time to care for one another and for our partners, we shortcut the “daily effort to live in a way that allows Jesus Christ to come through in our lives.” By failing to care for and appreciate each other in our daily tasks, our mission loses its credibility as our tasks become crass transactions and we lose sight of our longing for God-empowered transformation. Dave challenged us to live into our own mission, to add a few life-giving rhythms to help us sustain our marathon mission of equipping leaders to transform polarizing cultural conflicts into opportunities for spiritual growth and witness. He’s absolutely right. In this way, we model the honesty and consistency we’re calling our Colossian Way group leaders to embody. Our words gain credibility when we practice the rhythm of Godly thinking, speech, and action—including confession and forgiveness—all within a context of worship. Through this manner of living together, trust grows and the opportunity of engaging one another across our differences is made possible in increasingly beautiful ways. Through your faithful prayers and participation with us in this work, you are a vital member of this community of practice—a community that is, according to Williams, “growing in the life that Jesus shares with us, so that we can become signs of life and hope in our world.” I am deeply grateful for your partnership, and I pray that you receive this letter as an act of transparency and a credible gift of Christ’s grace. This post is excerpted from our July prayer letter. To receive the prayer letter in your inbox, click on the button below. Subscribe! To the monthly prayer letter.
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.
The Colossian Forum's New Look
August 31, 2016 | Jennifer Vander Molen
The Colossian Forum's New Look
The Colossian Forum is in the middle of a rebranding process, and today we're excited to debut our new logo! As we've expanded our focus from the intersection of faith and science, a new look to reflect that focus became a priority. We're moving from a science-centered look to one that reflects the broader facets of our mission and ministry at The Colossian Forum. If you've been receiving our publications and emails over the past few months, you've seen these new colors integrated into our look. Our new tagline, Hope in Practice, reflects The Colossian Forum's mission to give glimpses of hope within messy situations and provide tools to engage these situations through our shared Christian virtues and practices. We're also working on a new website that will launch later this month (by the grace of God) where you'll be able to peruse our mission and vision, what we're working on, and find ways to connect with us. In addition, The Colossian Forum will relocate later this year to the Widdicomb building in downtown Grand Rapids (601 Fifth St. NW, Suite 101, Grand Rapids, MI 49504). The new space will provide more room for our staff, additional meeting space, and collaborative work areas. While the move-in date isn’t finalized yet, you can stay updated by checking back here on the blog. We anticipate moving in late November. There are a lot of changes here at The Colossian Forum! We're excited for the journey as we bring people together in messy situations to participate in the truth of the gospel.
What is a TCF Discovery Event?
April 30, 2014 | Lori Wilson
What is a TCF Discovery Event?
On Wednesday, April 23, TCF hosted a Discovery Event, designed to share with a diverse group of local people our ministry of reconciliation and education. The event was held at our office in Grand Rapids, and included personal introductions, a presentation by our President, Michael Gulker, and a Q&A session. Most of the participants were new to TCF and were intrigued with our approach to divisive, tough issues surrounding faith, science, and culture as opportunities for spiritual and communal growth. Our 17 guests represented a wide range of ministries, and many were able to envision ways to partner with TCF in order to serve their own communities. In the end, people came away learning three things: why we need a new kind of conversation, what is “new” about this conversation, and how they can participate. During the Q&A time, people were excited about TCF’s work and voiced some thoughtful questions, including “How does a forum make long-term impact?” and “How do you address conversations that don’t seem to be making progress?” TCF welcomes these hard questions and encourages this same type of honest listening and gracious speaking in our forums. The hope is that our Discovery Events will not only inspire and encourage people, but will provide them with a variety of ways to engage difficult conversations within their own communities. If you are interested in attending or hosting a Discovery event, contact us and let us know!
What is a "listening forum"?
April 23, 2014 | Lori Wilson
What is a "listening forum"?
How often do we feel truly listened to – not just heard but known? The body of Christ is strengthened when we use divisive issues as opportunities to build each other up through the service of listening to one another. Because we live in a culture that is fast-paced and full of distractions, listening as a spiritual discipline is something that takes practice and intentionality. TCF hopes to cultivate this virtue in communities by allowing people the space to stop what they’re doing for a time and give their full attention to their fellow Christians. When we practice this in our daily lives, we not only build connections with our brothers and sisters, we also allow the Holy Spirit to create in us the capacity to listen well so that when the most difficult issues arise, we are ready.      A couple of weeks ago we gathered a group of people in our office living room for a Listening Forum. Our goal was to create a safe space for people to share their stories and thoughts about divisive issues in the church and Christian institutions. As we do in all our forums, we began and ended our time together in worship by confessing our common unity in Christ through prayer and scripture reading. This important practice shaped the way we listened and responded to each other – it formed our hearts and minds towards the Spirit’s work of reconciliation that happens within - and through us - when we acknowledge our dependence on God. The evening continued as we shared both positive and negative experiences of Christians handling difficult issues. Some stories brought up old feelings of frustration and pain, while others brought hope for a better way forward – what we call “faithful conflict.” Along the way, folks were also able to name a number of issues that they felt could not be addressed in church or with other Christians because of the tensions that these issues often raise. By simply bringing these issues to light, the burden of shame that often accompanies these difficult topics was lifted, and together we cultivated our ability to listen well.