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Our Blog
August 17, 2016 | Jennifer Vander Molen

Respect that Grows: A Colossian Way Story

Earlier this year, over 100 Christians went through the initial pilot phase of The Colossian Way. The Colossian Way equips pastors and lay leaders to change how their communities think about and handle challenging issues. You can read more about it here. Enjoy this story from one of our pilot groups!

Getting to know someone you disagree with as a person, rather than an opponent, may seem like an obvious thing to do, and yet it rarely happens.

Over the course of a 10-week Colossian Way pilot, the Campus Edge Fellowship group witnessed the power of sharing personal stories, not just arguments, and framing tense, uncomfortable conversations with worship and prayer.

The Colossian Way has each session start with people sharing their stories: who they are, their backgrounds, experiences they’ve had with the topic and why they’re interested in talking about it.

For co-facilitator Sarah Bodbyl Roels, this was one of her favorite parts. “A person’s sources of authority and the accumulation of lifelong experiences influence how they think about and interact with the world,” she said. “It’s interesting to consider that if you had the same experiences, you might think the same way.”


Surprisingly, the main source of conflict wasn’t so much creationism vs. evolution, but how much the issue of origins actually matters.

“We had a lot of, ‘Why are we even talking about this?’ discussions in the beginning,” co-faciliator Brenda Kronemeijer-Heyink said. “For most people, this isn’t a salvation issue … but that’s a clear point of tension with someone who has spent much of their time studying evolutionary biology, or someone whose belief about how the earth came into being has ostracized them from their church. There are direct implications for how you live on this planet with how you believe God brought the world into being.”

However, that tension led directly to a moment both Brenda and Sarah describe as a highlight. During an exercise where group members were asked to line themselves up on the basis of how much they thought this issue mattered, two people who were at opposite extremes (one strongly for six-day Creation, the other for evolution) found themselves standing in the same spot, united by their belief that this issue mattered a lot.

“Seeing that was really powerful,” Sarah said. “We saw them look at each other and realize, ‘Even though we disagree, we both feel so strongly about this.’ Without that, I think they would have been so exasperated that they could hardly have understood each other.”

Brenda added: “I think a huge respect for each other grew out of that, and a level of connection that they might not otherwise have had, to find that commonality with a person they disagreed with.”

Having those kinds of unexpected relationships form was a high point for the group. “It got to the point that when someone would say something, another person would chime in to support them, even though that person might have had a differing opinion,” Brenda said. “But they were still willing to reach out and bridge, and show, ‘I get where you’re at, and I understand why you say that. Even though I don’t personally hold that opinion, I validate yours.’”

In fact, the community-building was strong enough that even after the pilot was over, group members were comfortable enough with one another to gather again for general discussion and hangout time.

As much as they celebrate the relationships that formed during the pilot, Sarah and Brenda both wish there would have been a bit more conflict. “We never really got to that full boiling point. We just kind of simmered,” Sarah said. “I know many people had more to say, but they were too polite. I think we could have grown more as a group if we had had some blow-ups. Those would have created opportunities for growth in healing and relationships – you’ve hurt the other person and they’ve hurt you, but let’s move beyond that and learn to live together in community.”

However, one of the last lessons had people list what they had learned in terms of how to have positive conversations, and Brenda was pleased to see people realize, “I do have the skills to have a positive conversation about this with someone. I feel like I’m better able to do that now.”

Sarah added that one participant shared that she now understood “that good conversation and relationship-building happens not only when you take the time to understand the opinion/viewpoint of someone who disagrees with you, but also the additional time and effort to understand the person behind the opinion.”

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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.

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