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Displaying all posts tagged "Young people".
Millennials Pursue Unity: An Important Counter-Narrative
April 20, 2016 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Millennials Pursue Unity: An Important Counter-Narrative
Rebecca Kates, former intern at The Colossian Forum, wrote a series of blog posts for us about millennials and how they see and pursue unity. Here's part one of the series and part two. She recently graduated with a masters degree in Theological Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary, and we’re thrilled to share her insights with you. The forum model that The Colossian Forum teaches is another form of ecumenism. The task of The Colossian Forum is to testify to the truth that in Christ all things hold together. That all things hold together in Christ is something with which Christians agree. Through being united in this truth we can seize conflicts as opportunities to learn and experience how it is true that God is in control, is merciful and wise. Therefore we need not segregate ourselves from anyone who is different or disagrees with us the way the church so often has done. The freedom that we find in the truth that Christ holds all things together enables us to use our interactions as training grounds for growing in the fruit of the Spirit. Though we don’t all agree or like each other at all times, we can still achieve a form of unity under the guidance of the Spirit. Why is this relevant right now? It is particularly relevant to me as a young adult living in a postmodern society. I often hear that young people are leaving the church in droves. I have been to so many churches that are on campaigns to bring my generation back by trying to be more appealing, oftentimes by attempting to incorporate more elements of popular culture into the services and church life. But what I think this generation is so tired of is the division and break-down of church community. Many churches do recognize the breakdown of community and try to rectify it, but oftentimes they fail to realize how deep the problems are and do not go to the extent of seeking reconciliation of churches and church members along political, economic, racial and theological lines. Witnessing and experiencing deep reconciliation is something that could draw disillusioned young adults back to the church.  In the Fall of 2013 I conducted a survey of over 300 members and graduates through age 30 of the ecumenical college ministry that lead the prayer meeting where I had my Revelation 7 moment. My goal was to learn about these students’ ecumenical experiences of getting to know Christians from different denominations. (The term “ecumenism” as it is used here means simply people from different Christian traditions practicing unity in various capacities.) The overarching consensus was that while there were challenges to practicing faith together with Christians from different traditions, it actually strengthened participants’ faith rather than weakening it. In response to the statement, “Knowing Christians from different denominations has drawn me closer to Christ,” 86.6% of respondents either agree or strongly agree. Similarly, 85.42% of respondents either agree or strongly agree with the statement, “praying and worshipping with Christians from different denominations increases my faith.” In a time of anxiety on the part of the church over the engagement of the Millennial generation, it seems that there is an important counter-narrative to be told. Is it possible that it is disillusionment over division rather than apathy or boredom that drives young people from the Church? Is it possible that this hole in our witness is an opportunity to revitalize and build a more just Church that more fully shows the unity of the Body of Christ? The results discussed above show the passion that young people can have when Christians of different stripes seek to worship in unity. Could this passion translate to a revival in the Church? My next blog will further explore the experiences of these young people, revealing both the blessings as well as the challenges of seeking to live together despite our differences.
Millennials Pursue Unity: It's Not Just for Leaders
April 13, 2016 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Millennials Pursue Unity: It's Not Just for Leaders
Rebecca Kates, former intern at The Colossian Forum, wrote a series of blog posts for us about millennials and how they see and pursue unity. Read part one of the series here. She recently graduated with a masters degree in Theological Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary, and we’re thrilled to share her insights with you. Look for more in the coming weeks! Despite the disagreements, it seems that the church has made progress. After centuries of deep division, the 20th century saw great advances in ecumenism. The Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches issued a common declaration in 1965 to erase the mutual sentences of excommunication from 1054. The Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999 expressing agreement on many points of doctrine regarding justification, which largely initiated the Reformation. The World Council of Churches was created in 1948 and has initiated many bilateral and multilateral dialogues among many denominations. [caption id="attachment_7589" align="aligncenter" width="493"] “The Hanging” from Les misères et les malheurs de la guerre by Jacques Callot, depicting the French invasion of Lorraine during the Thirty Years’ War[/caption] Advances in unity have occurred not only among church theologians but also among lay members. The church has come a long way, as Jacques Callot’s picture, “The Hanging,” reminds us. For much of history, Europe was divided in gruesome conflicts in which differences in Christian theology played a part. The church for the most part has laid down her physical weapons against each other. At the Second Vatican Council Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint took ecumenism a step further and declared that it is the duty of every Christian to seek unity, The Council calls for personal conversion as well as for communal conversion. The desire of every Christian Community for unity goes hand in hand with its fidelity to the Gospel. In the case of individuals who live their Christian vocation, the Council speaks of interior conversion, of a renewal of mind.  - Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sum, 15. With this call, for many Christians ecumenism (seeking Christian unity in some form) is now not only for church leaders, but for every Christian. There are many ways Christians can do this. Many charities and groups have been formed among members of different denominations. For some, the model may include coming together around the ‘least common denominator,’ as in members of different denominations will not bring any of their differences into the community and only what people share can be expressed. On the flip side, another model might be that people can bring into the community whatever difference they want and people who disagree with those practices or differences simply ignore them or practice a relativistic attitude towards it. A model that fits more in the middle ground might be what John Paul II in Ut Unum Sum calls an “exchange of gifts.” An exchange of gifts is more than simply exchanging ideas in a theological dialogue, but rather finding ways for each member to complement one another. Avery Cardinal Dulles points to a conference in 2006 at Durham University as an example of this, Conducting an experiment in what the conference called “receptive ecumenism,” the speakers were asked to discuss what they could find in their traditions that might be acceptable to the Catholic Church without detriment to its identity…Unlike some recent models of dialogue, ecumenism of this style leaves the participants free to draw on their own normative resources and does not constrain them to bracket or minimize what is specific to themselves. Far from being ashamed of their own distinctive doctrines and practices, each partner should feel privileged to be able to contribute something positive that the others lack. - Avery Cardinal Dulles, “Saving Ecumenism from Itself” in First Things, no. 178 (December 2007): 23-27. In this model of “receptive ecumenism” or the “exchange of gifts,” groups do not need to find the least common denominator between them, but rather different members of denominations can bring things unique to their tradition, so long as it does not contradict another denomination’s beliefs. An example of this might be in an ecumenical setting, an Orthodox participant may not bring into the setting the practice of using icons in prayer, but could bring some of her practices of fasting.
Millennials Pursue Unity: Why It's So Rare
March 23, 2016 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Millennials Pursue Unity: Why It's So Rare
Rebecca Kates, former intern at The Colossian Forum, wrote a series of blog posts for us about millennials and how they see and pursue unity. She recently graduated with a masters degree in Theological Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary, and we're thrilled to share her insights with you. Look for more in the coming weeks! After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”  -- Revelation 7:9-12 On the island of Patmos, almost 2000 years ago, St. John the Apostle saw an amazing vision of Heaven where people from every tribe, nation and language gathered in unity to worship the Lamb, the son of God. I remember the closest I ever felt to experiencing a moment like this here on earth. While I was in college, the Holy Spirit inspired a group of a hundred students from a multitude of backgrounds and across the denominational spectrum to worship the Lamb together. Despite the fact that so many of us would be going to different churches on Sunday morning - Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic - in this moment we were able to set aside our differences and all acknowledge the worthiness of our God in praise. I remember stopping in the middle of this prayer meeting, looking around me and sensing in this time of worship a sweetness I had never experienced before. Scripture attests to this sweetness that I experienced. The Psalmist declares, “How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) Jesus states, “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst." (Matthew 18:19-20) Why is it so special when Christian brothers and sisters come together in unity? Why does Jesus say that he is in their midst? Why has this experience been so rare for me and many others? The answer to this last question is sadly all around us. It is the nature of sin to divide humans from one another. Even in the church we are divided politically, economically, racially, nationally, and theologically. Jesus commands that we love our enemies and yet we already struggle so much with loving even fellow Christians if they are from a different denomination or race or class. We live in a society where it is easy to not be committed to one another. It is easier to divide and segregate rather than the hard work of living together through thick and thin. Growing in the virtues required for unity takes work. It takes regular maintenance and building of habits that often go against the grain of our sinful nature. But to not work towards unity is to ignore what was so dear to Jesus’ heart in his last priestly prayer on Mount Gethsemane: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17:20-21) There is a sweetness in unity because unity does not come from homogeneity. Homogeneity is sameness not unity; it takes diversity to create unity. Unity is the bringing together of parts that are different into one without losing the uniqueness of each piece. The image of Revelations 7 shows that diversity is not erased but rather celebrated. When all our diversity aims toward the same end of praising and glorifying God our Creator and Redeemer, it is a mosaic with different pieces that form one beautiful image. Many of our differences however have to do with what we believe to be true and right. Our beliefs about God and the church matter. At some point one Christian will be wrong where another is right. So what did Jesus mean when he prayed that his followers be one? Followers of Christ cannot even all agree on what it means to be one.
Un Done – Part Two: A Reflection on the Forum Experience
March 25, 2015 | Jeanna Boase
Un Done – Part Two: A Reflection on the Forum Experience
As I shared in “Un Done … Part 1,” about two years ago I was among the growing population of those who are “done with church.” After years of intentional Christian living, I was finished. Since, then, through the experience of “foruming,” I have found a way to re-engage with God’s people and the church. Over the past year I have heard echoing refrains from participants: “This is so refreshing.” “I don’t want to stop this conversation.” “When can we do this again?” “I crave these real conversations.” These responses to the forum experience resonate with my reflections. In light of these positive experiences, I have begun to question what brought me and so many others to be “done with church.” Recently, I was exploring a website of a young adult ministry seeking to start chapters in churches throughout the state. As I browsed the site I found a video of one of their meetings and began to watch it. Right away the “I’m done!” alarms began to sound. Suddenly I realized why; the speaker was talking at me. I have been both the listener and the speaker in these “front of the room” settings. Yet I now see that I have rarely been a true participant. The setting is not conducive to conversation, interaction, engagement, and deeper knowledge of those seated around me. It’s a simple matter of logistics – we’re all facing the same direction. It’s one of many ways that church leaders can use to help teach and form church members. But it seems to be the accepted status quo, and I’ve begun to ask myself why we so often limit ourselves to this approach. Instead of pointing the finger, as I would love to do, I decided to examine myself. I have taught, spoken and shared from the “front of the room” in many discipleship and formation settings. I did this because it was the norm and also, because I was afraid. I was afraid of conversation. Afraid that if I fostered interaction, allowed real participation and engagement, changed the “teaching” to an interactive experience – I would have to face questions and issues for which I didn’t have the easy answer. At the “front of the room” I have control and safety. When talking at people, I feel safe because rarely does someone raise their voice to disagree, and if they do: I still have the power to control the conversation. And yet, after 14 years of talking and being talked at, I was done. One of the deepest reasons for this was the lack of opportunity to truly connect and participate. I crave connection, real conversation, a space to struggle honestly. I long for a chance to learn and hear from those around me without relentless formality. This is what I find in a “forum.” Forums unfold beautifully, in an informally formal way, whispering dignity. Through sharing, expressing, listening, and interacting, we create a sacred space together. Here we can linger, learn, and grow. Here we can be wrong and make mistakes. We can test the limits of our commitment to this way of life, because we actually have to put into action what we’ve been talking about. As I take a step back from the edge of “done,” I turn towards the church with hope for balance. There will always be a need for “front of the room” teaching, but there is also a need for genuine, unscripted interaction. Practices of engagement through facing one another, wrapped in peaceful prayer, stepping into the discomfort of divisive and hard conversations may be what is needed for those who are “done” to experience Christ’s love within the context of a conversation which will never end.
Un Done - Part One: A Reflection on the Forum Experience
February 12, 2015 | Jeanna Boase
Un Done - Part One: A Reflection on the Forum Experience
Today I read an article titled “The Rise of the ‘Done with Church’ Population.” The article details how many faithful, active church members are leaving simply because of what can only be described as being “done with church.” About two years ago, I was “done with church.” I hit a wall of what I would call “Christianese Burn Out.” I was exhausted from countless talks, prayer meetings, small group gatherings, Bible studies, and mission trips. The Christian world I was a part of did not connect with my experience of an interior desert walk, following in cracked and painful footsteps of the suffering Christ. Instead, it seemed all I heard of from the front was about being carried by the “arms of grace.” At least that was what I heard at the prayer meetings and church services I attended, religiously. I grew up in a strong Christian family, and chose to personally follow Jesus 14 years ago. I have been active in ministry work around the world, and involved in several intentional community movements. If I were to crunch some numbers, I would estimate that over the last 14 years I have listened to approximately 1800 talks, participated in over 2000 bible studies or small groups, and attended over 1500 church services. And yet, even with all of this “discipleship,” “community,” and “formation,” I found I was done, or almost, done. I attended my first TCF forum about 18 months ago. The delicious food, engaging people, and comfortable environment invited me in, sparking my curiosity. I sat facing a few friends and a few strangers and we began to share, to listen, to be together; we began to “forum.” During my first listening forum, I discovered in a new way the voices of God’s people. And I haven’t looked back since. Through collaborating with the TCF team, I have fallen in love with the “forum” model, and have had the amazing opportunity to introduce over 40 people to this new kind of conversation. The article referenced at the beginning says “The ‘Dones’ are fatigued with the Sunday routine of plop, pray and pay. They want to play. They want to participate. But they feel spurned at every turn.” I was among that group. I felt unheard, unknown, but also disconnected because I didn’t have opportunities to hear the voices of God’s people around me. The forum setting, the paradigm shift of “challenges as opportunities,” the face-to-face honest interaction, and the hospitality of TCF has begun to bring me back from “done.” Through the over 20 forums I have been involved with, I have heard the beautiful harmony of the voices of the other. I have found a way to create spaces where participation is the point, laughter and tears are standard fare, and where real openness around hard and challenging issues serves as the catalyst for a conversation that is never “done.” Within the diversity of experience, practice, expression, and perspective I have encountered through “foruming,” I have found a new hope. I have sat face-to-face with those I love and those I deeply disagree with, I have heard their heart and firmly held beliefs, and in the midst of it all I have been drawn back into the possibility of a new way, a new kind of conversation for the church and God’s people.   Noelle Gornik is the Office and Program Coordinator at the Issachar Fund.  Noelle has global program development, implementation, and coordination experience. Before joining the Issachar Fund, Noelle worked in program coordination for several organizations including Cornerstone Development based in Kampala, Uganda and ORA International based in Andorf, Austria.  Noelle has a BA in International Relations and African Studies from Grand Valley State University.
TCF at Bryan College
February 27, 2014 | Lori Wilson
TCF at Bryan College
TCF recently hosted the third in a forum series on the origins of human existence, this one held at the site of the Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, TN. The four-day event included a private gathering of scholars in related fields, as well as a public forum at the Rhea County Courthouse featuring TCF Fellows Todd Wood and Darrel Falk. During our time in Dayton, TCF and our partners were also invited by Bryan College to lead a chapel service for their faculty, staff and students. You can read about the service on the student news site here. The college has also made available an audio recording of the event, posted online here. We are grateful to Bryan College for creating space for this important and difficult conversation.

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