Colossian Blog

Displaying all posts tagged "Unity".
Hating Your Neighbor Will Make You Dumb
October 4, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Hating Your Neighbor Will Make You Dumb
Lou Huesmann attended our recent Colossian Way leader training with a team of people from his church, Grace in Long Beach, CA.  He sent us a link to this article in Christianity Today, which talks about a new book from Alan Jacobs, How to Think. "This is a ready-made explanation for anyone who wants to understand why The Colossian Forum is needed," said Lou. We couldn't agree more. Petitions, protests, and popular rallies reveal our deeply ingrained belief that voices shouting loudly in unison can shape reality. In today’s climate, many of us crave clear battle lines between good and evil and abhor anyone who dares admit that complex problems don’t have simple answers. And heaven help any poor public figures foolish enough to sincerely change their minds. Read the full article here. (The article is behind CT's paywall, so if you don't have a subscription, you can check out more on How to Think via Amazon or your local bookseller.)
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]
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.
Reflections on Unity
May 24, 2017 | Trey Tirpak
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.
Listening--It's More than Just Tolerance
March 16, 2016 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Listening--It's More than Just Tolerance
TCF's Rob Barrett recently kicked off the series How to Stay in Conversation with "the Other Side" at the Do Justice blog. The series aims to help how to communicate about contentious issues in ways that build up the body of Christ, and we were thrilled to contribute to this important conversation. Listening to Christian brothers and sisters certainly helps us understand where they’re coming from. Often we even start to sympathize with them. But what do we do after we start to understand someone we disagree with? Many suggest that tolerance should be our goal. Difference is uncomfortable and inconvenient, but we allow space for others to chart their own course. Tolerance preaches agreeing to disagree, leaving each other alone. But we at The Colossian Forum believe that Christians are called to something much better—and more difficult—than tolerance. We belong to Christ and to each other. We share a common life, which Paul likens to a body (1 Corinthians 12). Many of our differences are intentionally given to us by the Holy Spirit so that we can build up Christ’s body (vv. 7, 11). Our differences aren’t inconveniences to be tolerated, but gifts for our overall good. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don't need you!’” (v. 21). The eye doesn’t tolerate the hand. It loves and serves it. But eyes think differently from hands. A healthy body coordinates its members across differences. We must listen to work together. Read more from Rob over at Do Justice. Thanks to our friends at the Christian Reformed Church's Office of Social Justice + Christian Reformed Centre of Public Dialogue for hosting us on the Do Justice blog!
Faithfulness Under the Cross: Unity, Division & the Church
April 22, 2015 | Jeanna Boase
Faithfulness Under the Cross: Unity, Division & the Church
As churches across America work to foster discipleship amidst difficult conversations – sometimes poorly and sometimes well – there is a great deal we can learn from one another. TCF is grateful for the many Christians we encounter who willingly share their experience and wisdom in engaging conflict as an opportunity for spiritual growth. From time to time, you’ll find their stories and resources posted here to encourage your pursuit of faithful discipleship in the midst of conflict.   “On one thing let us be clear: the outcome of history has already been determined. To be on the right side of history is to find your fellowship within a great throng of people from every tribe and nation and language, a colorful multitude of people who are joined together by a single purpose: to give praise to the one who is seated on the throne…” This bold and hopeful claim is all the more notable for its context: a gathering of Christians who have parted ways over doctrinal differences. Hosted by the IN-MI Mennonite Conference, the event created space for two pastors who hold opposing views on questions of sexuality to speak about their dreams for the future of the church. They spoke honestly of the pain of rupture, and joyfully of their experience of God’s presence and sustenance in the midst of grief. Framed by prayer (and hymns sung in legendary Mennonite four-part harmony), the event concluded with a stirring invitation from historian John Roth to pursue unity in worship as followers of a crucified Savior. This event was organized by the Conference’s Unity and Variance Task Group, chaired by friend of TCF Mark Schloneger. It’s available for your viewing here; we recommend particularly Roth’s talk (beginning at 1:11:30). We share this event as a testimony to the work of fellow believers who, while divided on significant issues, nevertheless are pursuing unity as fellow believers in Christ.