“And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” – 2 Corinthians 3:18
As we move into the season of Lent during this bleak mid-winter, we’re reminded of the stark reality that despite all of our résumé virtues, our lives are symbolized by decidedly unremarkable ash.
God forms us from ash, and we become ash when we leave this earthly life. All of us have this same end. Yet, Jesus transforms our ash in the laying down of his life for us in the distant and yet very present Easter. His doing so gives us both the ability and courage to lay down our lives not just for Jesus, but for his body as well. We do this knowing that ash is not our final destination, but the opportunity to witness to the overcoming of death.
Here at The Colossian Forum, we believe that the laying down of our lives in the midst of conflict creates a space for God to do a new thing. When we trust that all things do hold together in Christ, the transformative work of the Holy Spirit helps us lay down our lives and in so doing, new creation sprouts from the ash.
That is our prayer for the 10 groups piloting The Colossian Way curriculum right now. We invite you to read some of their stories here.
Thank you for joining us on this journey of transformation and hope. Please pray with me during this upcoming season of Lent as we look for ways to lay down our lives.
This post is excerpted from our February prayer letter. To receive the prayer letter in your inbox, click on the button below.
We’re always humbled here at The Colossian Forum when God uses our mission and ministry to spark hope in unexpected ways.
In a world with polarizing political debates, tense family dinners (even if we can play Adele’s Hello at opportune moments), and churches divided on key cultural topics, it’s tough to see through the mess to the hope that Christ provides.
Here’s a few recent snippets from our interactions with people here at The Colossian Forum:
A guest at our annual Christmas Open House took advantage of the whiteboard walls and the question “What was an ‘a-ha’ moment for you in 2015?” to share this message of hope:
A New Testament professor at George Fox Evangelical Seminary, Nijay Gupta, shared a blog post written by Rob Barrett (our director of forums and scholarships at TCF). You can read the original post here. Dr. Gupta said:
Last year my New Testament introductory course devoted 1 3-hour session to the topic of Paul and sexuality. I knew that it could be a very tense discussion, with students with polarized views. My goal was not to pontificate on the subject but to find ways to think about the discussion in new ways, especially concentrating on the pastoral task in the discussion.
After I read Rob’s blog post, I was touched by the thoughtfulness of his reflection and the way it “humanized” the conversation. Despite our theological differences, we are all humans trying to help other humans. Rob reminded us of that. We read the blog post out loud and I allowed a few minutes for students to process the blog post in small groups. I think it set a good (pastoral) tone to the conversation.
To all of you who’ve invested in us—through your donations of time and money, through your prayers, through your brainpower, through your word of mouth—we thank you for helping shine God’s hope in a world hungry for light and truth.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
This past weekend, our dear friend and colleague Craig Schrotenboer’s youngest daughter Chelsea Overbeeke unexpectedly passed away. Chelsea suffered a sudden brain hemorrhage last Thursday and died early Sunday morning. She is survived by her husband Anthony in Bozeman, Montana.
Our hearts ache for Craig, his wife Sherry, and for the entire Schrotenboer and Overbeeke families as they mourn Chelsea. Please join us in praying for Christ’s peace to envelop this dear family as they are filled with sadness. Pray for wisdom and compassion as they seek the grace and strength to move forward and adjust to this new reality.
Funeral arrangements are pending. If you’d like to send your condolences to Craig and the Schrotenboer family, please address it to Craig Schrotenboer at The Colossian Forum, 940 Monroe Ave. NW, Suite 140, Grand Rapids, MI, 49503.
Throughout the Bible, believers are called to pray. It’s an essential part of our relationship with God, where we communicate, worship, and seek God’s face. Here at The Colossian Forum, we start each day by praying through the lectionary as a staff. It’s a tremendous opportunity to center, focus, and connect with God and each other.
Prayer is an important practice that deepens our relationship with Christ and is at the heart of personal and cultural renewal. Because it’s so essential, we curated a list of helpful prayer websites that we want to share with you. We hope these sites will help you experience a more joyful and fruitful prayer life this new year.
If you have a favorite or helpful prayer resources you’d like to share with us, please do so in the comment section. We’d love to hear what works for you!
When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.”
– Matthew 2:9-10
Happy New Year! This week we begin the season of Epiphany, when we remember the coming of the wise men and their gifts to Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew says a star went ahead of them and then “stopped over the place where the child was” (Matthew 2:9).
God revealed himself through a star; a particular star that these wise men from the east knew specifically belonged to this new king. Like much of the Christmas story, this takes place at night, with heavenly light illuminating the darkness.
Sometimes it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that darkness itself can become, in the hands of the true and living God, the gift we need to see the light—the star guiding us to Jesus. Because of the darkness, the light of Christ shown all the more brightly.
In our work at The Colossian Forum, we’re inviting this bright light of Christ to beam into the darkness of conflict and sin within our churches and communities. The darkness may seem pervasive when you look at a particularly divisive issue facing your family, church, workplace, or community. But we know that Christ’s light shines through the darkness. ALWAYS.
Please join me in prayer in this new year that we might be courageous lights in a darkness that’s not always as dark as it may appear.
This post is excerpted from our January prayer letter. To receive the prayer letter in your inbox, click on the button below.
“People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”
– Luke 21:26-27
My kids love Christmas music. I’d like to say their tastes are liturgically well-formed and artistically refined, but alas, they prefer Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” over “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” While I try in vain to save Christmas music for the 12 days of Christmas, whenever I’m not looking my Pandora feed mysteriously reverts to “Christmas Radio.” For the kids, there’s just no wait in them . . . or in their culture.
I suppose a bit of such fun is appropriate, especially for someone who takes himself far too seriously most of the time. Yet I can’t help wondering if today’s trite jingles equip us with a hope robust enough to face into today’s headlines: San Bernardino, Paris, Beirut, Syria, ISIS. No wonder so many prefer the dissolution and distraction of Black Friday’s bliss to the harsh realities of our broken world.
“People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world.” I’m thankful for Luke’s stark reminder that we worship a Lord who doesn’t dance around difficulties but places himself so vulnerably in the middle of them. And in so doing, disarms the powers of death and destruction.
So please join me in praying for a joyous Advent season, but let’s do so realizing that in this dark world our joy is made possible not by the market but by a God who came and is coming again–Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
Advent blessings to you all!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and join us in welcoming Jennifer to The Colossian Forum.
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,
On 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.
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
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 Way. It 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,
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.
Click article to enlarge or download here.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the LORD surrounds his people,
from this time on and forevermore.
– Psalm 125:2
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,
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!
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.
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.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love.
– Psalm 51:1
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,
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.