Koinonia. Fellowship. The characteristic of Christianity that marks true disciples as followers of the way – their love for Christ and for each other.
Fellowship is an term that has continued to need reshaping and reforming as I’ve tried to better understand what Church is all about. My earliest recollections were definitely hearing this term in the context of church, most closely associated with a picnic after that followed or a potluck supper. Then later it become more of a descriptor of a location… usually followed by the word ‘hall’. Which then was usually synonymous with fried chicken.
No doubt these were well intentioned methods, strategies, events or locations that hoped to display the reality that Christians need each other as much as we need Christ. Christianity as an island is a concept that is foreign to Scripture. The book of Acts vividly paints pictures of koinonia in action. The most noted passage is in chapter 2…
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
I think Luke is teaching us something here of fellowship that is obviously beyond a simple ‘togetherness’ of believers, whether over a meal or not. Koinonia has as its root the idea of having in common and sharing. This is where it starts to get a bit radical. John Piper says of this text, “In a moment Luke is going to talk about times of eating and praying together—what we usually call fellowship. But that is not his first illustration of fellowship. His first illustration is that the believers were so bonded that if one was in need, the others did not feel they had the right to live on in prosperity without giving up something to meet the need. So they would sell possessions and use the money to meet the needs of the poor in the church.”
Koinonia now becomes an amazing reshaping of what Church – the body of Christ – is all about. We are all in – for Christ and for each other. What is mine is yours and what is yours is mine, because really it all belongs to Christ anyway. No one will lack among us – especially the least of these. In fact, we will be known by not only how we love each other (which is always easier, by the way) but we also will be known by how we love those outside our circle. And incidentally by loving those outside our circle, we are actually doing what Christ has commanded with the intention of them becoming a part of our circle. It’s koinonia in action and coming full-circle… inward and outward and outward and inward.
This is what I desire for our student ministry. I hesitate to call it a strategy and would rather say it is just an outworking of a continual striving to align our ministry with God’s Word, but it is new for us and has been strategic in its design. How amazing and God honoring to be known for our koinonia – how we love each other and love the world. How we live open-handedly. How we so enjoy our community that we can’t help but invite others to experience it as well. May it be so.