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Our Blog
December 2, 2019 | Michael Gulker

Advent Greetings – November/December Prayer Letter

Advent greetings from The Colossian Forum! Since Advent is the celebration of the incarnation of Christ, we thought we would try something slightly more incarnational than our usual email prayer letter. We hope you enjoy this experiment and the video. As always, we welcome your feedback. Please email me at mgulker@colossianforum.org with your comments, suggestions or questions. 

Please join us at The Colossian Forum in giving thanks for:

· You. As we come to the end of 2019, we are so grateful for our partners, participants, Leaders, and supporters, who make our work not only possible but joyful. Thanks to your steadfast commitment and support, we’ve been able to share the gifts of hope and healing with more people than we ever imagined through The Colossian Way. This year, 115 people have become Colossian Way Leaders, and 29 TCW groups have occurred, representing nearly 350 participants. In our Fall Cohort alone, 144 people are running groups (12 on Sexuality). We couldn’t be more thankful for or encouraged by this engagement!   

· Linda Gulker and Christine Pohl, who have volunteered to help us expand our reach on Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is an international movement of generosity, hope, and celebration that invites people to give small donations to organizations they already love. To get involved, please contact Emily Stroble at estroble@colossianforum.org

· A diverse, well-attended Colossian Way Leader Training last month. Christians from all over the country blessed us with their rich stories of personal and spiritual conflict that led them to TCF. We pray they returned home feeling encouraged and empowered to help their churches become places of reconciliation.  

· The opportunity to gather with many of you at our upcoming annual Christmas celebration on Dec. 12. We pray our time together blesses you as it will surely bless us. If you haven’t registered already, please RSVP by Dec. 5th.

This month, please join us in praying for the following:

· God’s wisdom and guidance as we work strategically to expanding our offerings.

· A fruitful experience for those participating in upcoming pilot Leader Training and small groups for our forthcoming Colossian Way series on gender. Their feedback will be essential as we shape the final curriculum.

· A productive Giving Tuesday on December 3. Please watch your inbox, our website and TCF social media channels for special video content, stories, and posts. We invite you to share your stories of impact and generosity with TCF’s hashtag, #ForgivingTuesday!

· Our many friends who faithfully offer their gifts toward our work. We have been uniquely blessed with a $25,000 matching gift to double the amount and impact of donations received before December 31. Each gift supports training leaders in the U.S. and beyond and builds a clearer picture of TCF’s future work in the Church. Please join us in praying for God’s continued sustainment and growth of this vision. If you would like to participate in the match, please visit www.colossianforum.org/give. Should you have questions, please contact Emily Stroble at estroble@colossianforum.org

· Broad awareness for our Political Talk curriculum as we work toward launching our Political Talk curriculum in an election year. We pray it will guide churches nationwide toward hope in a polarized world.

Upcoming Events:

· Please join us Thursday, December 12th from 5 – 8 p.m. for our annual Christmas Celebration! We invite you for fellowship and to receive a “first taste” activity from our Political Talk curriculum launching soon to churches around the country. To help us gauge catering needs, please RSVP by Dec. 5th.  

· The January Series: Moving Beyond Labels to a Christian Dialogue about Creation and Evolution with Todd Charles Wood & Darrel R. Falk. Please join these gentlemen, the authors of our latest book, The Fool and the Heretic, on January 9 as they discuss their unique, Christ-filled journey to love and friendship amid deep disagreement. TCF’s Dr. Rob Barrett will moderate the session. We hope you can join us onsite, at any one of 50+ remote sites, or online for LIVE audio streaming! Be sure to stop by our table as well. We’d love to hear about any conflicts your church is facing. Admission is free.

Thank you for your faithful prayers.

We are comforted and encouraged by your ongoing partnership in prayer.  It would be our privilege to lift up your needs and praises as we gather each morning for prayer.  Please take a moment to email us any intercessions or thanksgivings at info@colossianforum.org.

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.

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