12 Mar Promoting Koinonia
Why is koinonia so important when we are talking about The Great Commission? One reason we have failed to fulfill The Great Commission has been our tendency of making converts rather than disciples. The Great Commission is to make disciples. If disciples are not being made, then we are failing in our commission.
What a disciple is has been clearly defined by the Lord. True discipleship is rarely found among Christians today. One reason for this is that true discipleship is not possible without koinonia. As we read last week in I John 1:7, “If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship (koinonia) with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
As we have covered, this Scripture makes it clear that we simply cannot abide in the light without havingkoinonia. This is also essential for our cleansing. I often say jokingly but truthfully that we simply cannot mature in Christ the way we are called to without all of the frustrations and irritations of church life. The frustrations and irritations, the hurts and disappointments, are only a small part of what this experience is meant to be, but they are essential to our development. There are certainly far more positives to experiencing koinonia than negatives, but the challenges help us to mature.
Either idealism about church life or rejecting the church will lead us far from the path of life. True church life, koinonia, can be one of the most wonderful things we ever experience and one of the most difficult, as is true of any relationship, including marriage. As the Lord taught in the Parable of the Sower, many will depart when testing comes. Many depart from church, and many are now even departing from marriage when the tests come. You can never pass a test by quitting.
The breakdown of marriage is related to the breakdown in church life and vice versa. The same thing that heals one will heal the other as well. The cross is a vertical post that represents our connection to God and a horizontal one that represents our connection to one another. One thing that taking up our cross means is that we must have both of these in our lives. Of course, our connection to God eclipses the importance of our connection to one another and must always be kept first. But if we have this and keep it first, we will also have the other. As John also wrote, we cannot love God who we do not see if we do not love our brother who we can see (see I John 4:20-21).
So, what can we do to promote koinonia in church life? First and foremost we must seek the presence of the Lord above all things. What good is the most glorious temple if God is not in it? Then we need to pursue relationships, not just wait to be pursued. Barnabas had to go and get Paul. Then they needed to get in the right place before either of them could get released into their own ultimate calling.
In those days, this was a supreme effort. It must have taken months for Barnabas to travel to Tarsus and then back to Antioch. Today it is hard to find those who will drive more than thirty minutes to church. What makes something a treasure is that it is either rare or difficult to obtain. Koinonia is one of the greatest treasures we can have in this life. It is not cheap or easy to find, but it will be found by those who value it enough not to give up on its pursuit. The city that God is building, that which Abraham sought and all true sojourners seek, is built on Jesus with koinonia.
Seeking the presence of the Lord is far more than seeking His blessings, which so much of the present emphasis of church teaching is based on today. He will bless many things He will not inhabit. When He says that wherever two or more are gathered in His name He will be in their midst (see Matthew 18:20), the word “gathered” does not mean merely occupying the same room or space. It is where they have been “assembled together” like the parts of a bicycle have been assembled together. This is why we are told to “not to forsake the assembling together” (see Hebrews 10:25). This is not just a warning not to miss meetings, but to not fail to be assembled together as we are called to be.
To build a church where there is actually church life, koinonia, we must do things to intentionally promote interchange between members. This can include small groups, church fellowship dinners, mission trips, and various other activities. However, gatherings that really lead to koinonia will center on the presence of the Lord. All others can be helpful in getting to this, but just gathering together for activities can fall far short by themselves.
In every spiritual pursuit, we must keep in mind this principle: Between the place where we receive the promise of God and the promised land, or the fulfillment of the promise, there is almost always a wilderness that is the exact opposite of what we have been promised. This wilderness is meant to prepare us for the promised land. Do not be shaken when you start to pursue koinonia and the opposite seems to happen with relationship challenges breaking out everywhere. This is just a sign that you are indeed on the path.