DISCIPLES TOGETHER: KOINONIA
"Concerning that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.
1 John 1:1-4
Our last post looked at the early church in Acts 2 and explored the dynamics of the Gospel. The Gospel births disciples and disciples mature in a community of other disciples. There's a symbiotic relationship between community and the setting down of deep roots in the Gospel.
These next few posts in this sereis look at some of the contours of the Gospel and the practices they invite us into as a Christian community.
KOINONIA: THE GOD WHO SHARES LIFE WITH US
The above text from 1 John celebrates the Good News that in Jesus, God shared and continues to share His life with us. The word for this "life with us" is a Greek word "Koinonia." It typically gets translated "Fellowship" (as it does in the NIV translation above).
John says: "we have heard God, we have seen God, we have touched God and we have discovered His abundant eternal life!" God has visited us and He remains with us in Jesus. John's churches are doing life with the resurrected King Jesus. What John is inviting other congregations to do is join him/them in recognizing that they ought to be doing the same.
In other words, simply put, John's message is this: do life with Jesus by joining us in doing life with Jesus!
THE KOINONIA CHAIN
The Gospel is the announcement that God makes His home with us in Jesus. He lives with us and shares life with us.
Notice the last paragraph of the text above is a sort of "koinonia chain":
"We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete."
YOU (do life with...) -- US (who do life with...) -- GOD (who does life with all of us together)
This is important.
God is sharing life with us, and we want you to be a part of this communion we call the Church!
So, because God has shared His life with us, we are called to share our life with one another. This is how we continue and abide in Christ ... together!
The Gospel gathers us as a community to share a common life together under King Jesus.
THE SURPRISE OF THE OTHER
We’re called to a common life because as soon as we live life with God, we discover, much to our surprise … He’s already been sharing His life with others! The book of Acts is full of stories that depict the Apostles discovering the wider reach of God's grace and then, having to figure out how to live a common life with people they used to think were heathens!
So, its almost like we’re pushed into life together; we don’t get to choose because God’s already there spending time with the other and making Himself at home with them! It's an invitation simply to join Him in a shared common life with others.
Think about how many stories there are in the Gospels where Jesus drags his disciples into awkward, uncomfortable situations -- situations where the disciples have to sit down and eat with all the wrong people. One minute they’re with Pharisees and the next minute they’re with the sinners and the tax collectors. Its a mess ... and that's exactly why we ignore this common life together. It's messy.
NOURISHING AND CULTIVATING THIS COMMON LIFE
Thinking about how we can cultivate this common life together in the church is an important task of Christian leadership and discipleship. Here's a handful of creative practices that help nourish a church community in this life of Koinonia:
Forgiveness is a foundational practice of Koinonia and genuine Christian community. It helps create an open space where we can be honest about our short-comings. It allows us to explore our unique gifting and use what we feel God has given us freely -- in such a way that we are not afraid to fail. In a world of merciless, achievement-driven values, practicing forgiveness opens up the possibility of genuine Koinonia. It heals broken relationships and encourages deeper connection with one another.
Practicing care for one another
One way we live out and nourish this shared life together is by being aware and mindful of others needs. Caring for one another in our hurts and burdens, lifting one another up in times of stress and anxiety, giving time to the lonely or grieving with the grief-stricken -- these are all deep practices of Christian Koinonia. They are expressions of God's fellowship with us and signs that the Gospel is alive and at work in a community.
Organizing structure to make for healthy community
Maybe it sounds weird, but every home needs a set of house rules and structures to run well. Every community needs roles that each member plays. One way we help cultivate this rich life of fellowship is by structuring our community in such a way that everyone has space to thrive and use their gifts. If the church is the Body of Christ, we should organize our churches to let each part of the Body grow and mature. Disorganized community to often stymies meaningful Koinonia because it isolates rather than connects the congregation.