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Our Blog
December 28, 2016 | Michael Gulker

We’re Changing What it Looks Like for Christians to Disagree–and It Can Be Beautiful

If you’re like me, you are especially hungry for the peace and goodwill this season promises. It’s been a particularly divisive year, featuring quarrelsome politics, ongoing race wars, and increasingly vocal disagreement across a range of social and economic issues. In families, churches, and society—conflict, fear, and ill abound.

More than ever, Christians of all ages and theological positions are caught in disagreements that ought to be opportunities for growth rather than obstacles. Too often our zeal for truth leads to verbal assaults and tarnished reputations.

At the family and local church level, this often results in divisions and infighting, which leads to frustration, embarrassment, and uncertainty (especially among millennials and youth). The tough questions alone aren’t harmful, but the unloving behavior displayed at the expense of grace and love certainly can be.

The church’s brand problem

On a large scale, this has created a brand problem for the church: people both inside and outside the church think Christ’s bride has lost her beauty. The church may be right, but she’s no longer attractive. Those outside the church are turned off by words and attitudes that are often less loving and compassionate than those offered by non-Christians. At the same time, those inside the church leave (as confirmed by studies such as Pew’s comprehensive study on declining church attendance and the ever-increasing tribe of “nones”). These days, it seems like more people are ducking out the back doors of churches than are coming in the front.

How we’re helping

At The Colossian Forum, we’re pioneering new ways of engaging difficult conversations. The Colossian Way leader training, coaching, and small group resources provide an effective, scalable program that equips pastors and lay leaders to change the way our churches think about and handle challenging issues. Little by little, we’re changing what it looks like for Christians to disagree—and it can be beautiful.

It’s only with your support that we can help the church be a place where people are loved collectively, even across difference, rather than judged individually before they walk out the door. Together we can make church a place where every relationship is an opportunity to see Jesus. And I can think of nothing more important for this fragmented world than for it to see Jesus in people like you and me, especially when we disagree.

Help us build a church that people run to and not from.

Suggested Posts
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.
Conflict and Christian Discipleship - Michael Gulker Interview with Faith and Leadership
January 24, 2019 | Michael Gulker
Conflict and Christian Discipleship - Michael Gulker Interview with Faith and Leadership
The church today has a poor record in helping people navigate conflict, but conflict can be the very thing that can heal them. In fact, we can harness it to be better disciples. Learn more in Faith and Leadership's interview with The Colossian Forum President Michael Gulker here.    

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