X

The Colossian Forum Subscription Form

| Resume a previously saved form
Resume Later

In order to be able to resume this form later, please enter your email and choose a password.

Subscriber Information







Subscriptions

Resources

The Colossian Forum offers free resources to help you transform polarizing cultural conflicts into opportunities for spiritual growth and witness.

Mailing Address







Please enter the required value for your country.

Our Blog
July 5, 2012 | Lori Wilson

Article – Surrender

Surrender

Todd Charles Wood
June 1, 2012

In my previous Colossian Forum essay, I concluded that the way forward in the culture war over creation and evolution is surrender. As I saw it then (and see it now), surrender follows Christ’s own example of radical humility and surrender in the face of death, a death that would bring eternal life to many. But even as I wrote about this surrender, I honestly had no clue what it might entail. How does one surrender in a battle over truth? How would that achieve anything? Are we supposed to just let heresy into the church, whatever we think heresy might be? I’ve given these questions a lot of thought, prayer, and study, and I can’t say that I’ve resolved anything too clearly yet. At this point, however, I’m pretty sure I know what surrender isn’t.

I know that surrender doesn’t mean that we can just pretend it doesn’t matter. For some folks, that might seem like an easy way out, especially when the issues are complicated. Why try to understand the intricacies of argon-argon dating or genetic coalescence if you don’t have to? Is Genesis really worth all the fuss? I have to admit that for many individuals, ignoring the problem is probably good enough. It really is a complicated subject, and it’s not something you can get a handle on by reading a blog post or a magazine article. If it doesn’t affect the way you live your life, why worry about it?

But is that really the way we as the collective body of Christ ought to deal with differences? Especially when the disagreements aren’t just about whether to serve juice or wine, but about what the entire narrative of salvation really is? The creation/fall/redemption narrative has been part of Christian theology for centuries, and evolution appears to pose a profound challenge to that narrative. We all know that there are many who claim that evolution is not compatible at all with Christian theology, and there are also those who seem happy to begin the task of re-imagining theology for this evolutionary age. That sounds like an important issue to me. Maybe it’s not a discussion that everyone can participate in equally, but the Church needs to collectively address this problem. Surrender cannot mean ignoring the issue.

I’m also sure that surrender isn’t just letting the “other side” win. That’s the most obvious meaning of surrender, but that’s definitely not what Christ did on the cross. He couldn’t possibly let the enemy win, especially when His surrender was the very key to victory. If we are to follow His example, we can’t just let the other side win, whoever the other side might be.

I also think we shouldn’t let one side win because the issues at stake are far too important. On the one hand, evolutionary creationists claim that young-earth and progressive creationists distort or even lie about scientific research and discoveries. On the other hand, young-earth and progressive creationists claim that making peace with evolution undermines the heart of the Christian message. These charges are far too important to surrender without careful evaluation, especially if there’s some measure of truth in the accusations of both sides. It’s too soon to just let one side win. Surrender must be something more.

Looking back at the passion of Christ, I think we can find some guidance for our own acts of surrender in His Gethsemane prayer, “Not my will but thine be done.” Christ’s surrender was not to circumstances, the Devil, or other people. Jesus surrendered to God and God alone. [div id=”callout-right”]Looking back at the passion of Christ, I think we can find some guidance for our own acts of surrender in His Gethsemane prayer, “Not my will but thine be done.”[end-div]I take from His prayer two essential ingredients in surrender. First, Christ gave up His own desire to avoid the crucifixion. Second, Christ conceded to the all-powerful control of God the Father, trusting that He was working a much greater good through what seemed like impossibly difficult circumstances. How could that work in this debate over creation?

I think first we need to surrender our own selfish desires. In academic debates, like any other argument, personal desire goes beyond just being right. When I’m in a heated argument, I want my opponent to admit that I’m right. If I didn’t, there wouldn’t be an argument in the first place. I would just present my understanding of things, and my opponent would do likewise. Then we might talk about the potential weaknesses or strengths of our ideas, but that would be it. We’d end the discussion with a better understanding of our positions. In reality, arguments get heated when we want the opponents to concede to our superior understanding. That’s a vain and selfish desire if ever I heard one. For us to move forward in this creation debate, we must surrender that desire.

But wait, this isn’t just any old argument here. We’re talking about potentially serious problems. If creationists really are distorting science and bringing shame on the gospel, that’s a big deal, and likewise, if evolutionists are fundamentally altering the basic message of Christian theology. Is this something we can just sit down and have a chat about? This is the future of the Church at stake. We need to take some kind of action. Right?

That brings me to the second ingredient of Christ’s surrender: acknowledging the sovereignty of God. In the debate over creation, there’s a lot of hand-wringing over what will happen to the Church if evolutionists or creationists win. The evolutionists will destroy Christianity, or the creationists will turn us into a cult! It seems to me that these exaggerations both ignore the power of God. He’s preserved His Church for two thousand years through some grim and horrifying heresies. Should we suddenly expect that He’s powerless to guide us through this debate on creation? Does He really need us to step in and help Him out? Or are we just betraying our own lack of faith?

I think that the God who created this universe is still God enough to help us work out our differences. I know that His Word will accomplish what He sends it to do. He doesn’t need my help to get the point across. He doesn’t need me to defend Him. If we believe that God is sovereign – if we really believe it – then we really ought to relax and let Him do His work. Surely He can sort out all these debates when we seek His guidance, but if we try to control things ourselves, to selfishly get the other side to admit we’re right, we really will bring shame on the gospel.

I confess that these acts of surrender will not be easy. I really do want to recognize God’s sovereignty and to give up my vain desires, but as a young-earth creationist, I have grave concerns about the mixing of evolution and Christian theology. I feel like I need to do something, but maybe that something is surrender. Maybe I should cast myself at Jesus’ feet and ask Him to help my unbelief. I hope you’ll do the same, and perhaps together we’ll see God move in a remarkable way.

I think He’d like that.

 

Todd Charles Wood is an associate professor of biology and director of the Center for Origins Research at Bryan College. In his spare time, he enjoys classic movies, making pie, and traveling with his wife.

Suggested Posts
Virtual Small Groups Can Overcome Isolation
June 26, 2020 | Monica Lawrence
Virtual Small Groups Can Overcome Isolation
Isolation is one of the deep pains we are experiencing as churches and individuals right now. The changes brought about by COVID-19 highlight how many ways we are separated from each other, even in God’s family. But loneliness in the Church isn’t new. As a millennial Christian, I know we have a habit of hopping from one church to another and a reputation for leaving the Church altogether. When I was in college, I attended several churches but never really got plugged in. I was always assigned to an age group, meaning I missed out on perspectives, growth opportunities, and encouragement outside my bubble. That’s part of the reason I love the inter-generational aspect of The Colossian Way. It pulls you out of your echo chamber and says, “look at all these voices that make up the Church.” It’s not just millennials who get stuck in echo chambers or feel isolated. As I coordinate our trainings and workshops and connect people with faithful conflict engagement resources, I see church leaders burdened with the heavy responsibility of supplying answers to hard questions and responding to conflict, all while holding their congregations together. It’s easy to feel alone in your struggle to navigate culturally divisive conflicts in the Church. My favorite part of hosting Colossian Way trainings is seeing Christians make connections to others struggling with difficult disagreements. To come together, to name those struggles, and to work toward a way forward – knowing you may never agree – is an incredible gift. But does that unity and relationship carry over to a grid of tiny Zoom boxes? Back in March, my colleague and I decided to lead a Colossian Way group online to see if it was possible to practice discipleship through Christian conflict engagement virtually. Here’s what we learned: Technological Skill Level Isn’t a Barrier to Participation: Facilitators should familiarize themselves with the video platform they use by accessing tutorials and perhaps investing in a paid account to access convenient features. Small group participants just need a strong internet connection and be able to log on to the platform. It’s Important to Get Used to New Conversational Rhythms: When you meet online, conversational rhythms of talking and listening can become more rigid; you lose the moments of excited interruption and “turn to the person next to you” conversations. Just like in an in-person small group, Facilitators should learn to be comfortable with silence and carefully manage time. If your platform allows you to split up into breakout rooms, be mindful of the extra time those technological transitions take. Take the Extra Time for Relationships: In the Colossian Way groups I’ve led, we took a little extra time to get to know each other. When we met in-person, we shared a meal before each session. Online, we took a few minutes to connect before the session began. One of our participants taught Spanish and used a different flag or photo from a Spanish-speaking country as his webcam background each week. Another, a healthcare professional, participated despite the strains of her job during a pandemic. Bonding over these interests and challenges helped us dive into difficult topics. In the end, our online group, like any group, worked, not despite a lack of relationship or closeness, but because we committed ourselves to building relationships with one another and to being spiritually formed to look more like Christ in the midst of disagreement. Facilitating a Colossian Way group is challenging but extremely rewarding. You’re joining a robust community of experienced guides who are playing an active role in making their congregations more loving, more resilient. In addition, we’ve designed training and resources to support you every step of the way. And, in August, Facilitator Training will be available online, making it easier than ever to equip yourself to guide your church to navigate conflicts in Christ-like ways. I’m a runner, so I’ll use a running metaphor. You can run barefoot. You may step on some pebbles, hit the pavement too hard, or scrape your toe, but you’ll absolutely get from point A to point B. But a good pair of running shoes will support you and help you run better. A good pair of shoes will protect you from rocks, support your feet, and help you run faster, longer. The Colossian Way Facilitator Training is like a good pair of running shoes. It teaches you how to balance your time, respond when somebody in your group monopolizes the conversation, and how to manage your own anger and anxiety. And perhaps most valuable, Training brings you into a community, because even though running can seem like a solitary sport, our endurance and speed get a boost when someone runs beside us or cheers us on at the finish line. For information about our newest small-group series, Political Talk, including how to become a Facilitator register for an upcoming free, one-hour webinar. To support other “runners” on this Colossian Way journey, I invite you to donate today to help provide online training and eBook curricula to Christian leaders looking for a way to hold together in Christ.
Does it Work? Discipleship and Witness.
June 8, 2020 | Emily Stroble
Does it Work? Discipleship and Witness.
We see face masks everywhere. Articles fill our news feeds every day, explaining precautions, studies, and the potential effectiveness of innovative solutions for disinfecting our surroundings. We also lament. Outcries against injustice fill our communities. We strive to discern how we are called, in this moment, to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8). But will any of it work? It’s a fundamental, bold question, demanding we evaluate the results something produces against its purpose. We are often asked if The Colossian Way works. Our community of over 850 small-group participants in 10 denominations answers with a resounding “yes.”  But what does that mean? First, we must clear up a few misconceptions about The Colossian Way. Some people come to The Colossian Way expecting it to help them change their opponent’s mind or to quickly resolve interpersonal disputes. They will be disappointed. The purpose of the Colossian Way is to equip Christians to navigate deep, cultural conflicts in a way that results in discipleship and witness. “Discipleship” and “witness,” then, are the measure by which we know whether The Colossian Way works. They are central to The Colossian Way because they are central to the life of the Church. The Great Commission, the foundational purpose statement of the Church, commands Christians to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel,” (Mark 16:15) and “make disciples of every nation” (Matthew 28:19). Discipleship and witness change us. Discipleship goes beyond teaching. It evokes a commitment from the pupil to adopt and be formed by the teaching. Similarly, witness goes beyond talking about the Gospel, meaning to testify or give evidence, to live as evidence of Christ’s redemptive work. Conflict has always existed at the center of Christian life, right alongside discipleship and witness. Most of the New Testament is concerned with the witness and discipleship, often in the context of deep cultural conflict. Paul writes frequently about factions within the church, responding to civil authority, and issues around socioeconomic status, to name a few. So, if The Great Commission commands us to disciple and witness, if the Epistles aim to design a Christian community that does just that, let us ask a bold question: Does the Church work?  In a 2015 study by the Barna Group, only 1% of church leaders stated they thought churches were doing discipleship “very well.” A 2017 Lifeway Research Survey found that 32% of young people leaving the church listed hypocrisy as their reason, another 29% didn’t feel connected to their church, and 25% cited political disagreement. The media conveys a similar image of a hypocritical, insular, divided Church, indicating that the same issues that drive congregants away may also prevent them from coming in the first place. While these statistics don’t present a full picture of the Church, they indicate the work to be done if we are to fulfill our purpose as the Body of Christ.  The Colossian Forum has committed to coming alongside churches doing this work. Henry, a pastor trained in The Colossian Way and a member of his Christian Reformed Church Classis’ Healthy Church Task Force, put it this way: “The heart of it is a number of us thinking, ‘how do we work with conflict differently than we have before?’ … The approach can be applied to many things. I’ve heard retired pastors and newer pastors respond immediately that’s exactly what we need to be doing.” The Colossian Way helps church leaders build that different, consistent, approach to navigate the difficult questions and decisions they face right now. Conflict will certainly continue as we begin to regather our congregations and political tensions increase heading into the fall. The bold question that remains is “will the Church work in the face of the deep brokenness of the world?” We invite you to join us with your prayers, leadership, and support. Like many non-profits, The Colossian Forum put its fundraising efforts on hold to focus on the needs of our community in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, as we prepare to offer vital decision-making and conflict-engagement resources, training, and support in this critical time, we’re working to match $4,000 pledged by several cornerstone donors by July 10. Our total goal of $8,000 will help equip leaders through forthcoming online training, translate our curriculum into an accessible ebook format, and develop whole-church practices for conflict engagement and decision-making. Give today at colossianforum.org/give.

601 Fifth St. NW, Suite #101
Grand Rapids, MI 49504

(616) 328-6016

info@colossianforum.org

Stay connected and informed about the latest in faithful conflict engagement tools! Sign up to receive exclusive event invitations, blogs, prayer letters, e-news and other content.