Koinonia means sharing, participation and intimacy. It embraces what we know as community and fellowship. Here the understanding of “church” is more than worship, sermons and gathering, although it includes these, it is better described as a fellowship of people. This is a group of people who know and love one another. They seek not only personally to become like Christ, but together to become like Christ and so are truly the body of Christ in the world. More than just gathering, they share life together and in that present a glimpse to the rest of the community of what God’s new creation looks like.
This is what Paul had in mind when he called the church a family and those in it know each other as brothers and sisters. It is a community that not only worships together (leitourgia), and belong together (ekklesia), but they share in each other lives in mutual fellowship (koinonia).
Each of these words conveys something important about the nature of “church” and of what God desires for us. They can insight as to how each of us personally understand what it is to be church.
For some it is nothing more than attending the Sunday morning worship time (leitourgia). Coming to worship, they hear the sermon and then go home again. Hanging around for morning tea following the service is not within their understanding.
For others, church is more than the Sunday service. For them morning tea more than just a time for a drink and a biscuit it is about being together giving opportunity to connect, catch up and belong (ekklesia). But there are other ways to belong such as serving in one of the myriad of ways possible within the life of the church such as attending one of the home groups during the week.
But the Church Jesus builds is more than just attending and belonging in that he calls us into deeper levels of care and love. It is a call to not only gather, but to scatter into the surrounding community to love and serve. It is a church that prays for each another not only on Sundays but throughout the week. It is a rich and diverse church that crosses boundaries, embraces differences and draws people into its fellowship (koinonia).
These three words, leitourgia and ekklesia and koinonia, provide us vital insights into what it means to be God’s church today. All three need each other to work side-by-side if we are to be the church God wants us to be. But this asks a commitment from us. It is a commitment that leads us beyond much of the individualism and consumerism of our society towards fellowship and community.
So there is a cost. The question it is, are we willing to pay that cost?
Stephen L Baxter