Tag Archive for: koinonia

Engaging the mission is about following Jesus into the community and being about God’s business. It is a way of relating to and loving others within the community in which you are located.

To help resource you in Engaging the Community, let’s focus on two distinct community ideas. The first is koinonia found in the New Testament. The second is the community in which your congregation is located. In both communities, you can share the gospel and grow your relationship with Jesus and the people entrusted to your care.  

To focus on these two concepts, remember that you are about God’s business. So, through the lens of being a follower of Jesus, what does it mean to live in community with other followers of Jesus and what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus in a diversity of people and beliefs?  

It is important to know and understand koinonia as you engage the community in which you are located. So, let’s start with koinonia, the New Testament understanding of fellowship or community.   

Read: Acts 2:42:47 

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.  

Reflect 

The first followers of Jesus, “…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship…” Gathering in community was important. It is mentioned three times: They devoted themselves to “fellowship” (verse 42), “All who believed were together” (verse 44), and “Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple…” (verse 46). Being together was an important characteristic of their faith development.  

Koinonia

This fellowship was known as “koinonia.” Before describing what “koinonia” is, let’s identify what it is not. Koinonia is not formal gatherings for potluck dinners nor informal gatherings of people who are like us. Koinonia is neither being a part of a country or civic club nor is it like being a part of a service organization. Koinonia is more than participating in worship. All of these are good and needed, but they do not describe what those early followers of Jesus experienced as koinonia. 

Koinonia for them was gathering to listen and learn of the gospel (apostles’ teaching). They were trying to make sense of what they had experienced at Pentecost. Gathering was to eat together, (breaking bread). It was an expression of God’s love, agape, working for the good of others, especially those who had little to eat. Gathering to pray (prayers). They gathered with glad and generous hearts in gratitude to God, seeking direction on how to live their lives as followers of Jesus. 

Koinonia and John Wesley

It is this same koinonia that John Wesley experienced when he expressed that “I felt my heart strangely warmed, I felt I did trust Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”  

Wesley was motivated to establish a koinonia system to help others, whose hearts were also “strangely warmed.” He was surrounded by people who not only wanted to hear the gospel but wanted to experience it. They lived in a time of spiritual apathy in which there was a disconnect between themselves and their faith. There was also an institutional disconnect that created disillusionment and distrust of the church.  

Wesley’s Aldersgate experience became a model for heartfelt faith. For the people whose hearts were warmed by God’s love, Wesley developed a system to help keep the heartfelt faith alive with experiences of care, support, encouragement, and correction.  

Koinonia and Methodism

He developed community by using class meetings and bands in which followers of Jesus were nurtured in faith and held accountable with compassion. People cared for and looked after each other’s souls. It was in the fellowship where loving hearts set other hearts on fire.  

Koinonia was woven into the DNA of those early Methodist Christians. Whether you are a United Methodist or not, this koinonia has shaped your faith as a Jesus follower. It is an essential experience in assisting you in becoming who you are created to be.  

Embodying Koinonia

Although I did not know it then, my earliest memories of faith are of people teaching, caring, supporting, and encouraging me in the faith community. Whether it was a fourth-grade Sunday school teacher telling me I would go somewhere else in the world to tell others of Jesus, a junior high school teacher who taught me to pray and to listen for God to speak, a high school teacher who cried with the class the day after a major disaster, or the Jesus followers who nurtured me in faith with compassion from a child to an adult, koinonia was part of my experience in becoming who I am today.  

Over the years, I have attempted to develop koinonia through small groups or other fellowship experiences. Still, the most common experience I have experienced koinonia was when it was woven into the fabric of the community of faith. It was when other followers of Jesus, whose hearts were warmed with God’s love, shared their faith and love with one another, the larger community, and the world.  

Heartfelt Faith

As a follower of Jesus and a Christ-centered leader, you lead with a heartfelt faith. There are two aspects of this heartfelt faith: the experience of God’s love in each individual’s life and the gathering of followers of Jesus who have experienced God’s love. Think clearly about providing opportunities for the “warm heart” and the structures of care that will lead to transforming individual lives, communities, and the world.  

When Wesley insisted that “true Christianity cannot exist without the inward experience and the outward practice of justice, mercy, and truth,” he gave us our focus on koinonia.  

So, take a moment to reflect upon these questions for yourself:

  • How is my relationship with Jesus growing in depth and expression?
  • How am I living out my heart being warmed by God’s love?
  • How do I grow in faith and live out my faith in meaningful ways? 
  • Take a moment to reflect upon this question for your faith community:
  • Am I developing the structures of care where people can grow in grace and discipleship, where the fruits of the spirit are being cultivated, and where loving hearts are setting others’ hearts on fire?  

The early followers of Jesus “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship…” So, one of the characteristics of engaging the community is to develop koinonia, Christian community. 

Respond 

Beware of moments when your heart is “strangely warmed” by the presence of Jesus in the lives of the people you encounter and in the situations you find yourself today. Continue to be mindful of how you are growing in faith and living in God’s love.  Be intentional in extending God’s love to the people around you. Ask God to help you be a blessing to someone, somewhere today. 

Prayer 

O God, thank you for your fellowship so I can grow in my faith. By your grace, continue introducing me to people who can provide care, support, instruction, and correction. Thank you for the ways you have provided for me to become more of the person you have created me to be. Give me the faith to trust you more. Make me aware of the people around me today so that I might become a blessing to someone, somewhere today. I offer myself to be in koinonia with you in the name of Jesus. Amen. 

Return 

Give God thanks for the people you encountered today. In whom did you meet Jesus? How was your heart strangely warmed? What structures did you put in place to give others care, support, encouragement, and hope? What do you need to do to lead others into koinonia? Give God thanks for the opportunities you had to become more who God has created you to be. 

As you learn and grow in engaging the community, keep in mind, who you are is how you lead.

Next we will look at the second concept of community in Part Three of Engaging In Mission: Engaging the Community.