1000false dots bottomright 219false true 1000http://www.colossianforum.org/wp-content/plugins/thethe-image-slider/style/skins/white-square-1
  • 5000 slideright false 60 bottom 30 http://www.colossianforum.org/blog/

TCF Welcomes Jennifer Vander Molen as New Manager of Communications

Posted by on November 25, 2015

The Colossian Forum is pleased to announce the hiring of Jennifer Vander Molen as our new Manager of Communications. A Michigan native and graduate of Northwestern College (Orange City, Iowa), Jennifer most recently served as the Electronic Media Associate for the Reformed Church in America (RCA) providing oversight of the RCA’s website and social media communication. During her seven years at the RCA, she established a robust social media strategy and substantially grew the denomination’s presence on major social media outlets.

Jennifer also gained extensive experience working as a communications coordinator for a large church in Des Moines, Iowa where she wrote extensively for the church’s newsletter, worship bulletin, and website as well as planned major, community-wide events for the church.

Concerning her hiring, TCF President Michael Gulker said, “Jennifer brings a wealth of communications experience to TCF and has a strong passion for the church. We are excited to welcome Jennifer to the TCF Team and anticipate she will play a central role in helping us invite more Christian communities to embrace conflict as a catalyst for authentic spiritual growth.”

Jennifer will start her tenure at TCF at the end of November, and you are certain to hear more from her in the coming months. Until then, drop her an email at jvandermolen@colossianforum.org and join us in welcoming Jennifer to The Colossian Forum.


Thanksgiving for Christ the King

Posted by on November 20, 2015

As we come upon the holiday (holy-day) season, Thanksgiving has traditionally been a time to give thanks for the many blessings God has lavished upon us. More recently, however, it has become the last day before Black Friday. Thanksgiving for God’s abundance is replaced by violent conflicts over the last [fill in the blank] on sale at Walmart. How did we become such a people—rich beyond measure yet squabbling over trinkets? And how might we become a different kind of people?

I am the Alpha and the Omega. ~ Rev. 1:8

TCF Fellow James K.A. Smith regularly reminds us that we are what we worship. In a consumer culture where the consumer is king, we tend to worship our own desires. But what if Christians were to take up Thanksgiving not so much as a national holiday dedicated to satiating our desires and instead celebrated with the church around the world giving thanks for Christ the King? What if instead of focusing on what we lack and hope to acquire by shopping, we turned our hearts to worship the one who has already given us everything we need to be faithful?

To help us redirect our focus during this season, I’d invite you to join me in spending time over the next several weeks contemplating and discussing with loved ones the lectionary texts for the celebration of Christ the King Sunday. How does this very strange King we worship teach us to expect a very different kingdom? And how might we participate in that kingdom today by living out the truth that God has already given us everything we need to be faithful?

Peace of Christ,


This post is excerpted from our November prayer letter. If you would like to pray for TCF on a regular basis, please contact admin@colossianforum.org and ask to receive our monthly prayer letters. Thank you.


The Colossian Way Training Recap

Posted by on November 4, 2015

12119971_1059296210781468_7761576875522725356_oOn October 22–23, 2015 we gathered leaders from ten churches and schools for The Colossian Way small group pilot training. The Colossian Way is a small group curriculum series designed by The Colossian Forum (TCF) to help Christians of all ages who disagree to engage difficult questions in ways that build up love of God and neighbor.

Our time together began with Michael Gulker who shared TCF’s history and mission. Rob Barrett then introduced the concept of wicked problems, and then James K.A. Smith discussed (via video) Christian virtues as the way through these wicked problems.There was plenty of time for discussion, both during these times together, as well as over dinner that evening.

The next morning, I proposed a new image for the Church – the cat’s cradle – where the Church is seen as a body in tension. This was followed by a practice session where participants had the opportunity to see how the curriculum works.

Each lesson begins with an invocation and confession. The group then views and discusses a video clip as part of the “Unity” section. This is the 2 Peter 1:3 portion of the curriculum: “God has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” A time of prayer follows, and then a second video clip is viewed and discussed as part of the “Engage” section. The lesson concludes with a confession of hopes and fears, and a closing prayer.

Reduced to an equation, the curriculum might be described as follows:

Wicked Problem + Christian Virtues = Conflict as Opportunity

The small groups kick off December 1, and run through May 31. Please pray for them, and for us as we guide them through this pilot with plans to distribute the curriculum more widely.


Prayer Letter, October 2015

Posted by on October 7, 2015

The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed…”

– James 5:15-16

Dear Friends,

In their book, Church Refugees, Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope begin with three very important questions:

Q. Why are so many people leaving the church today?

Q. Why is church such a bad experience for some people?

Q. What are the implications for our society if this central institution, the church, continues to decline in appeal and influence?

These are some of the same questions we at The Colossian Forum have been asking. It’s clear to many who’ve had bad experiences in the church that there are sins and sicknesses ailing the body of Christ and many wounded members to whom we must attend. And so the first step in responding to these questions is to examine ourselves and pray together—to pray for forgiveness and to pray for healing.

This month over 20 church and campus ministry leaders will gather to be trained as part of our new initiative, The Colossian WayIt is our prayer that this training becomes a catalyst for just this sort of healing, helping Christians begin to transform divisive cultural issues that tear apart our societies, churches, and families into opportunities for spiritual growth.

Please join me in praying for these leaders—that God would use them in powerful ways to call forth repentance, healing, and hope for God’s church. Pray that through these leaders, the church becomes a place where we love one another in such beautiful, honest, vulnerable, and Christ-like ways that even when we deeply disagree none of us could bear to leave! Help us to trust that a prayer of faith can indeed save the sick and forgive our sins.

Finally, just as you pray regularly for us at TCF, we’d like to pray for you. Please drop us a note with specific requests, and we would be honored to include those during our staff prayer time.

Peace of Christ,


This post is excerpted from our October prayer letter. If you would like to pray for TCF on a regular basis, please contact admin@colossianforum.org and ask to receive our monthly prayer letters. Thank you.


Practicing Patience

Posted by on September 23, 2015

Does contemporary art—and performance art in particular—have anything to offer the church? Put differently: what might the church learn from contemporary art? In this post I want to suggest that, more than mere illustration, performance art provides an opportunity for practicing patience.

In June, I had the privilege of attending the Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA) summer conference at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. CIVA “exists to cultivate an incarnational presence in culture, equip artists in their vocational calling, and nurture the relationship between the visual arts and the Christian faith.” Along these lines, this year’s conference—Between Two Worlds—sought to nurture the relationship between contemporary art and the church.

Having been invited to participate as a panelist for “The MORE of Arts Ministry” track, I did what most anyone in my situation would do: I Googled my fellow panelists (Dayton Castleman, Scott Kolbo, and Phaedra Taylor) to get a better sense of where they might be coming from. After reading their bios, I began looking through their portfolios and that’s when I came across a performance-based video called “Escalation 2” that has everything to do with dialogue on divisive issues.

The description of the work reads: “For the past year Spokane artists, Scott Kolbo and Lance Sinnema have collaborated on performance-based video pieces inspired by the increasingly volatile language that surrounds our current political discourse. The artists undertook significant research into the forums where political argument takes place in the contemporary world, and the phrases and words they recorded in newscasts, political advertisements, and the comments beneath on-line political articles were translated into physical form and used as literal weapons in an attempt to attain complete victory.”

Clocking in at eight minutes and twenty-one seconds long, the video exceeds the average attention span by more than eight minutes, and the average length watched of a single internet video by more than five minutes. Put simply: most of us aren’t going to watch the video. But if we don’t have the patience to watch an eight minute and twenty-one second video, how in the world are we ever going to have the patience to engage divisive issues?

Art (and performance art in particular) is, I suggest, well-suited for training in the virtue of patience. Engaging the medium requires time, eight minutes and twenty-one seconds in this case. Before we know it, we find ourselves caught up in the work and this gives our patience a workout.

The scene on-screen, however, is a workout of a different sort as the artists beat each other with red and blue words. Playful, at first, the beating escalates, before ending with a painful beat down.

“How terrible,” we say, and then like David confronted by Nathan (2 Samuel 12), we realize that it’s an all too familiar, uncomfortably personal tale. Maybe we’re the one beating, or maybe we’re the one watching the beating. It really doesn’t matter. We’re implicated.

It takes time to get here, eight minutes and twenty-one seconds, to be precise. But performance art wastes no time for, as we’re on the road to realization, we’re practicing patience.


Summer 2015 Newsletter

Posted by on September 15, 2015

Click article to enlarge or download here.


Introducing The Colossian Way

Posted by on September 9, 2015

















Prayer Letter, September 2015

Posted by on September 2, 2015


As the mountains surround Jerusalem,

so the LORD surrounds his people,

from this time on and forevermore.

– Psalm 125:2

Dear Friends,

Just for a moment, step with me into the shoes of the Israelites as they settle the Promised Land. Threatened by mounting pressures on all sides, they daily face a choice to rely on God or succumb to fear. In this brief passage, the Psalmist directs their eyes—and ours—to a God whose shelter is as secure and dependable as the mountains that encircle the city of Jerusalem.

The recent Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage has left many Christians feeling besieged. The devastating experience of the racial divide in the US fuels hopelessness in others. Many of us feel trapped by the viciousness of our political system in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. And yet the Psalmist’s response to each of these fears is the same: the Lord surrounds his people.

In many ways, our work here at TCF is simply to help the church remember this promise. When conflict presses in, we have a unique opportunity to practice trusting God’s provision, face into our fear, and actively participate in his transforming love in the very midst of our struggles.

Finally, just as you pray regularly for us at TCF, we’d like to pray for you as well. Please drop us a note with specific requests, and we’ll be honored to include those during our staff prayer time.

Peace of Christ,


This post is excerpted from our September prayer letter. If you would like to pray for TCF on a regular basis, please contact admin@colossianforum.org and ask to receive our monthly prayer letters. Thank you.



Farewell, friends!

Posted by on August 26, 2015

Dear FrFASTiends,

I’m writing with news of an upcoming change at The Colossian Forum, as the time has come for me to pursue new challenges elsewhere. I depart with gratitude for the four rich years I’ve been privileged to spend as part of the TCF team! During my time here, I’ve enjoyed a wide variety of challenges and have been deeply grateful to share in TCF’s mission of building community, expanding knowledge, and deepening faith. Of course, the highlight of my work has been collaboration with folks like you who share this vision of a church in which Christians allow their passionate disagreements to hold them together.

I’m pleased to say that I will continue, in a freelance capacity, to manage TCF’s FAST project.  I’m excited to keep working with this remarkable team of high school educators (you know who you are!) to develop a creative, effective teaching tool at the intersection of faith and science.

On September 2, my family and I will relocate to Colorado. We’ll miss the big Lake, but I do look forward to waking up every morning in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Stay in touch, and do stop by if you’re ever in the neighborhood!


TCF at Andrews University

Posted by on August 21, 2015

The Colossian Forum was recently invited to participate in the Andrews University Faculty Institute. Through workshop and plenary sessions, our staff was privileged to share TCF’s work to equip Christians to engage divisive issues as opportunities for discipleship.

Rob Barrett’s plenary address, The Scandal of Subordinating Truth to Love in Christian Scholarship, is now available for viewing online here:

By way of background, Rob writes about the specific responsibilities of Christian scholars:

Christian academics serve the church both as guides in Christian thinking and as models of Christian living. Many Christian institutions of higher education rightly emphasize success within the standard scholarly guilds as an indicator of responsible academic achievement. But when Christian academics engage issues that divide the church, it quickly becomes apparent that Christian scholars who seek to serve the church need to account for the overarching purpose of Christian scholarship being not the production of knowledge, but the building up of saints and holy communities. The truth that Christian scholars seek must be of a kind and pursued in a mode that results in increased love of God and love of neighbor. While the suggestion of prioritizing love in the pursuit of truth is scandalous within a secular frame, Christian love, unlike the distorted simulacra of politeness, tolerance, or celebration of diversity for its own sake, does not impede the pursuit of truth but rather motivates and sustains it. In this talk, I describe The Colossian Forum’s approach to engaging divisive issues as opportunities for discipleship, drawing from our experience with divisions over origins and sexuality. I argue that, perhaps surprisingly, positioning truth within a context of love holds a potential for acquiring both, while hoping for love to emerge from the pursuit of truth might fail to produce either.

Our thanks go to our friends and partners at Andrews University for this opportunity to share our work. We continue to pray for their scholars and leaders as they offer their gifts to the building up of Christ’s body in love.


TCF Accredited by National Financial Accountability Organization

Posted by on August 19, 2015

ECFA_Accredited_Final_CMYKGRAND RAPIDS, MI – The ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability) announced today the accreditation of The Colossian Forum of Grand Rapids, MI.

ECFA accreditation is based on the ECFA Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship™, including financial accountability, transparency, sound board governance and ethical fundraising.

The Colossian Forum joins a growing number of Christ-centered churches and ministries across America, supported by over 27 million donors that have earned the right to display the ECFA seal. When an organization is accredited by ECFA, it demonstrates its willingness to follow the model of biblical accountability.

“We are pleased to accredit a ministry committed to facilitate dialogue on divisive topics and approach differing perspectives as opportunities to build community, expand knowledge, and deepen faith,” said Dan Busby, president of ECFA.

To read the full article, click here.

TCF invites you to prayerfully consider investing in our programs through a donation.


Prayer Letter, August 2015

Posted by on August 12, 2015

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love.
– Psalm 51:1

Dear Friends,

We all know the feeling of getting it wrong, that sinking sense that we’ve missed an opportunity—or worse—perhaps hurt someone we love. These are moments we dread, but they are also moments we desperately need. For it is only when we honestly recognize our own wrong-doing that we are freed to turn to God with open hands and hearts, pleading for mercy and entrusting ourselves to His love.

David penned Psalm 51, a prayer of confession, after the prophet Nathan confronted him over his sins against Bathsheba and Uriah. In these poignant words, he acknowledges the magnitude of his wrongdoings and laments the broken relationships these have caused. He pleads for God’s forgiveness and relies on God’s mercy for reconciliation.

“Moments of reckoning” like this one are key to our work at TCF. As Christians work together to disagree well, we will make mistakes. We will hurt one another and we will fall short of the fullness of God’s truth. And yet, time and again, we are invited to repent together and accept God’s remarkable mercy and love. As we accept His forgiveness, we find ourselves more able to extend grace to one another and to ourselves, and to try again.

As sinners who share the remarkable experience of grace, our work is fueled by gratitude that we serve a merciful God. Please pray with me that our work this month might testify to the healing power of God’s forgiveness.

Finally, just as you pray regularly for us at TCF, we’d like to pray for you as well. Please drop us a note with specific requests, and we’ll be honored to include those during our staff prayer time.

Peace of Christ,


This post is excerpted from our August prayer letter. If you would like to pray for TCF on a regular basis, please contact admin@colossianforum.org and ask to receive our monthly prayer letters. Thank you.


Evolution and Christian Faith – New Posts

Posted by on July 15, 2015

Over the past three years, TCF has been grateful to participate in a program that explores questions surrounding evolution and the human fall into sin. In our work to serve the church, we seek to thoughtfully engage with challenges posed by scientific work—always with the goal of fostering faithful Christian discipleship. The team of scholars involved in this project is committed to an expression of orthodox faith that fruitfully interacts with emerging scholarship about human origins.

Throughout the project, our team members have wrestled with difficult questions (and sometimes, each other). While not always reaching consensus, they share a desire to equip the church to address difficult questions in a way that testifies to God’s ongoing work in the world. Their papers will be published by Eerdmans in a volume tentatively scheduled for release in late 2016. If you would like advance notification of this forthcoming book, please contact us.

In the meantime, we continue to add articles by the team to an expanding collection on our site. We hope you find these pieces helpful and thought-provoking.


Prayer Letter, July 2015

Posted by on July 8, 2015

Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
– 2 Corinthians 12:10

Dear Friends,

As we here at TCF wrap up a remarkably active month, I’d like to thank you for your prayers on behalf of our team and our partners. During several events we wrestled with difficult issues in the two arenas of science and sexuality; at times we felt out of our depth. And yet, we were reminded again and again that even—or especially—in the midst of our own weakness, Christ’s strength is revealed.

At our Writers Workshop, Christian scholars and pastors began to develop curriculum exploring a faithful response to contentious topics like origins and sexuality. The process wasn’t a simple one, and stirred up some difficult conversations that led us into deeper reliance on God’s guidance. While a number of significant questions remain unresolved, we pray that this work will help pave the way for churches to pursue discipleship in the midst of disagreement.

These scholars, together with our staff, hosted a one-night public forum to share some of their work with local Christian congregations. We typically structure events like this one as a continuation of the ongoing work of the team, so they’re unscripted—and often hold surprises for all involved! Once again, we sensed the work of the Holy Spirit as our participants maintained their commitment to truth while doing the hard work of loving those with whom they disagree.

Our Faith and Science Teaching (FAST) writing team of high school teachers spent the week refining a web-based resource that addresses topics at the intersection of faith and science in a way that promotes formation in the process of seeking information. Early reports indicate that there’s tremendous demand for a resource like this, and in comparison, our efforts sometimes feel like a drop in the bucket. And yet, as the team shared ways in which the Holy Spirit has already used this project in their classrooms, we were reminded that it is God’s strength that carries this work.

Peace of Christ,

Michael Gulker

This post is excerpted from our July prayer letter. If you would like to pray for TCF on a regular basis, please contact admin@colossianforum.org and ask to receive our monthly prayer letters. Thank you.


TCF Receives Grant for Congregational Work

Posted by on July 1, 2015

RN1_2451We are pleased to announce a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation to support the development of a TCF program for congregations.

In this specific project, TCF will work to design and pilot a church-based program that invites congregations to grow together in Christlikeness by pressing into divisive issues surrounding questions of faith and science. Thanks to this grant, TCF has been afforded the unique opportunity to respond to the church’s cry for sound curricula, effective training, and supportive relationships to engage areas of conflict between Christians in the context of their local church.

Our goals for the program include helping congregations:

  • Build a capacity for receiving divisive issues as opportunities for discipleship;
  • Understand the importance of the issues and landscape of the conflict; and
  • Grow genuine community among participants who hold strong positions on all sides of the issues.

With the support of the John Templeton Foundation, this program will result in a group of churches capable of engaging difficult issues of faith and science in ways that increase virtue, promote discipleship, and encourage living out the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:34-40) and Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20).


FAST Project Underway: Working to Transform the Classroom

Posted by on June 24, 2015

What comes to mind when you remember your high school science class? Were you one of those fortunate students whose biology teacher opened the door to a fascinating new world of living things? Did your physics professor introduce you to a universe of ideas you’d never imagined? Perhaps more unusual – did you feel like you left the science classroom a better person?

Here at TCF, we’re persuaded that we have the opportunity to pursue personal and spiritual growth everywhere – even in the classroom. So we’ve partnered with the Kuyers Institute to develop a resource to help teachers and learners alike grow as disciples of Christ. This week, an outstanding team of teachers is meeting in South Haven to design lesson plans and activities that don’t change what gets taught, but how it’s taught.

The intersection of faith and science – so often charged with controversy and threatening questions – proves to be a fruitful arena for instilling virtues like empathy and truth-telling and stewardship. As our teachers design hands-on resources, they’re testing them in their classrooms, and we’re discovering in real-time just how effective they can be.

One of our teachers recently commented:

I have always encountered groups of students that are challenging – both in terms of ability and lack of motivation.  These are often the students that have been told (directly or indirectly) that they aren’t good at school, and by high school they’ve pretty much bought into that message.  This year is no different in that sense, but it has been radically different in terms of the classroom morale and general disposition.   I think significant credit can be given to my change of perspective, giving a theme like empathy priority in a discipline like chemistry.  There is a bit of push back sometimes—students just want “the facts” so they can move on—but there have been several glimmering moments along with a slow changing of the tide, indicating that they are starting to see the big picture.

We’re grateful to teachers like this one, who willingly share their expertise and energy to develop this groundbreaking project. And we’re grateful to the John Templeton Foundation for underwriting this effort to transform the classroom into a place where students can grow both intellectually and spiritually!


Spring 2015 Newsletter

Posted by on June 17, 2015

Click article to enlarge or download here.




Join us Thursday, June 25

Posted by on June 10, 2015

The Colossian Forum invites you to join us Thursday, June 25 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at Western Theological Seminary for Transforming Conflicts over Sexuality and Origins. Experience an alternative to the polarized conversations of our day as our panelists engage important topics. Seating is limited; please register here.



Prayer Letter, June 2015

Posted by on June 3, 2015

“For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an
eternal weight of glory beyond all measure…”

– 2 Corinthians 4:17

Dear Friends,

I’m excited to share with you what’s in store in the month ahead. As we prepare to equip churches for engaging conflict as discipleship, we’ll conduct a workshop with a team of scholars to create curriculum that offers guidance through landmine issues like origins and sexuality. We’ll also host a public event with these friends, inviting them to model for Christians in our community a Christlike way of engaging hot-button issues.

During that same week, we’ll continue our work with a team of high school teachers to create a resource for educators at the (often) contentious intersection of faith and science. Our outstanding team will continue to refine teaching tools that foster discipleship among young people in the midst of sometimes heated conversations.

As we work to build these resources for Christians who face significant cultural tensions, we’re reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthians. Christians today continue to feel the pressure of “afflictions,” which don’t always feel “momentary” to us while we’re in the midst of the fray. These issues weigh heavily on us precisely because they matter deeply for the Body of Christ. And yet, in faith, we learn that even these struggles offer opportunities for the transforming activity of the Holy Spirit. As we participate in this work through faithful obedience and perseverance, we also look forward with hope to a future in which God’s glory outshines our darkest moments.

Finally, just as you pray regularly for us at TCF, we’d like to pray for you as well. Please drop us a note with specific requests, and we’ll be honored to include those during our staff prayer time.

Peace of Christ,

Michael Gulker

This post is excerpted from our June prayer letter. If you would like to pray for TCF on a regular basis, please contact admin@colossianforum.org and ask to receive our monthly prayer letters. Thank you.


Patient Perseverance: A Spiritual Discipline

Posted by on May 27, 2015

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where the best, most faithful response to a problem wasn’t to jump in with a quick fix, but to persevere patiently and uncomfortably for a long time?

In a recent TCF class, this question launched an important discussion. The conversation partners were all members of Calvin’s Academy for Lifelong Learning (CALL), and represented a remarkable breadth of experience and seasoned wisdom. They immediately resonated with this question, sharing stories of difficult seasons of endurance over the long-haul. They described times when no easy solution was at hand, and the faithful option involved a series of slow steps forward—and sometimes back. Many of their experiences took place in churches, where disagreements and annoyances dragged on for a frustratingly long time.

As we applied TCF’s insights, these experiences were transformed from resignation to hope and perhaps even joy. As you might imagine, our work more often than not involves a fair dose of discomfort and usually takes a long time! Tackling contentious issues head-on is no simple thing, and seldom are we able to resolve the questions in a first conversation… or even a fifth. Our staff and partners find themselves committed, for the long haul, to significant levels of unease.

Is it worth it? What is the hope? Jesus patiently endured the cross with hope for a joy ahead (Hebrews 12:2). The class learned to lift their eyes to the beautiful fruit that lies on the other side of persevering endurance. Seasons of unease aren’t about just “getting by.” Instead, they can serve as intense times of life in which the fruit of the Spirit can grow and flourish. The patient sufferer hopes in joy, both for themselves and for the ones causing the suffering. Putting up with an irritating Sunday school leader is not giving up but part of an important life together where the Holy Spirit is patiently working to build the church into a startlingly knit-together community. Such building is often uncomfortable.

As the class conversation continued over the course of six weeks, participants described a renewed sense of hope for life in the church. While discomfort isn’t bound to be resolved anytime soon, framing it as a pathway to discipleship proved transformative for many. And we at TCF were encouraged by Christians who are willing to be patient as they work alongside the Holy Spirit in the midst of uncomfortable situations.