Koinonia- The joy of fellowship in the Spirit!
As I was writing my post “Fellowship in the Spirit- the beautiful side of house church” I began reflecting on what it’s been that’s made my house church experiences so memorable. What was that intangible thing that was thick in the air and breathed the very life of God into our gatherings? The only word I could come up with was “Koinonia”.
As I look back over my life as a Christian there are certain times that seem especially marked as “heaven on earth“. Gatherings with God’s people that pulsated with life! They stand out to me as day compares to night as being imbued with the very life and presence of God among His people. They came as close as I’ve ever imagined it would be like had I been part of the early church in the book of Acts. The only word I can find to describe those times is “Koinonia’.
And so I decided to just look that word up again, and ponder it’s meaning:
“Koinonia is the anglicisation of a Greek word (κοινωνία) that means communion by intimate participation.” (Wikipedia)
Wow! Communion by intimate participation! No wonder my fondest memories of church have been in the context of house church! It’s the setting of house church that most readily provides the atmosphere for Koinonia to take place. Koinonia involves intimate participation and most church structures are simply not set up for that. In contrast to traditional churches, house churches have a unique structure that actually encourages Koinonia to flourish!
“Fellowship is never passive in the meaning of koinonia, it is always linked to action, not just being together, but also doing together. With fellowship comes a close and intimate relationship embracing ideas, communication, and frankness, as in a true, blessed interdependent friendship among multiple group members.”
Does that remind you of anything? 1 Corinthians 14:26 perhaps?
“What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.”
Koinonia isn’t just one person doing everything; it’s not a spectator event. In fact, it’s not an event at all- koinonia involves fellowship- in the Spirit, and with each other, in an active way.
But Koinonia is much more than just joint participation; it is also more than just fellowship- Koinonia is communion by intimate participation. And that is exactly what marked the gatherings I talked about in “Fellowship in the Spirit- the beautiful side of house church”. There was a transparency and openness with one another and with God- a letting down of our guard. It wasn’t just about participating in a song, or sharing a bible verse; it was about opening up our lives and being real with one another. This was the key element that was going on in those gatherings that made them so special. This was Koinonia!
Koinonia doesn’t just happen because you sit in a house. It requires transparency; being willing to let others see into you and them allowing you to see into them. That’s what intimacy is! Without that openness Koinonia can never take place. And since Koinonia is more than just fellowship with one another, since real Koinonia involves “fellowship in the Spirit” it means being real, transparent, and open and intimate with God too. The picture is one of God and His people together as an open book, intimately sharing. It makes me think of 1 John 1:3:
“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.”
The following verse in 1 John helps us to understand that true Koinonia is “fellowship in the Spirit”. Sin, and the darkness that comes with it, destroys Koinonia. (Think Adam and Eve hiding from God in the garden.) It’s as we come into the light with God and with each other that true Koinonia is able to take place: “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship [koinonia] with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from every sin.” (1 John 1:7)
Koinonia is an amazing thing! Intimate participation with God and with each other- now that’s church! No wonder some of my most wonderful memories of church took place in a house… it’s the perfect setting to encourage Koinonia.