Saturday, June 12, 2010

Church as Koinonia

One of the major challenges facing most churches today is that members really do not know each other. They have little in common in their daily lives or in the church. They no longer live in proximity with one another and cross paths daily. Many people commute long distances to work and may even commute to their church on the weekend. When they come to worship, they often participate as spectators in a service led by others and then leave as quickly as possible. There is no community cohesion in daily life or in the church.

In Coming Together in the 21st Century: The Bible’s Message in an Age of Diversity, Curtiss Paul DeYoung provides the biblical image of the church as koinonia, the Greek word for “fellowship,” “participation,” or “communion.” He writes, “The biblical image of koinonia epitomizes a quality of fellowship that encourages participation and togetherness linked in a common cause.” He uses the church at Jerusalem (Acts 2:44-47; 4:32-35) as an example of the church functioning in this way.

DeYoung comments that, “This passage [sic] informs us that true community is possible only when there is sacrifice and substantial sharing.” He goes on to observe that many Christians today are so selfish that they cannot conceive of sharing economic resources as the will of God. For me, the amazing part is that these people knew each other well enough to know who was in need!

True koinonia comes in two ways—through the investment of time getting to know one another and as the gift of God. As believers spend time together sharing their stories—their struggles, their needs, their defeats, and their victories—they come to discern the Spirit of God working in their midst. We can set the stage for koinonia to be created but the gift will only come when God provides it. This type of fellowship is rooted in our individual relationship with Christ as well as our individual commitment to one another. The horizontal relationship with other believers is born out of our vertical relationship with God.

In an age of instant gratification, are we willing to take the time for koinonia?

No comments: