Saturday, February 27, 2010

Koinonia

I am very "churchy."

I am often accused of being "too churchy," "too involved," or "too busy with church." I respect those who offer those opinions, and I respect the opinions. But I am who I am.

I am not churchy by accident. I am not that way because my parents started me in church early. I am not that way because I can't think of anything else to do. I am not that way because it is of any great profit to me, financially or socially.

I am churchy for two main reasons.

First, I believe deeply in the New Testament concept that the church is the body of Christ. In other words, the way that Christ touches the world is with the fingers of the church. He hugs the young and the frail with our arms, feeds the hungry with our hands, sees needs with our eyes, and speaks the gospel with our tongues. Conversely, the way the world sees Christ is by seeing us.

I don't mean to imply that the church is the only way that Christ works in the world, for it clearly is not. But I do emphatically believe that the church is the bodily way that Christ works. The New Testament makes that clear. Consequently, if I want to be a part of how Christ is working in a tangible fashion in the world, I feel a strong pull to do that through the church.

Similarly, as the body of Christ, we worship our head - Jesus - together. We study scripture together. We pray together. It is as a body that we function.

Second, I am addicted to koinonia. If you don't know that word, it is the English transliteration of the Greek word κοινωνία, which literally means "community of intimate participation." It is the New Testament word for the fellowship of Christians found in the church. It is the relationship that arises from breaking bread and sharing communion together. More loosely, it is the idea of fellowship that uniquely springs from those who join together in the church setting.

Please understand me: I am not for a moment suggesting that there are not many other worthy organizations wherein fellowship is enjoyed. There are many groups related to social clubs, neighborhoods, places of employment, sports, activities of every stripe, and just random groupings that become centers of personal human relationship and fellowship. I do not denigrate any of them.

But, at least for me, my experience is that nothing matches the koinonia. It is not simply personal human relationship but instead is a unique relationship joined by Christ Himself. Where two or three are gathered in His name, He is there also.

That is pretty mystical, I know. I just lost many of you. But stay with me.

I have just finished a two month project with about fifty fellow church members. It was not overtly "religious." We put on a show...literally - a two-hour concert of music drawn from Disney movies. Other than "God Help the Outcasts" from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, nothing in the show could possibly by misinterpreted as anything "religious." But participating in this program with these people was a celebration of that unique kind of fellowship.

The same group of us will join with our church to feed the homeless and teach children and sing Messiah and declare the gospel. We are strengthened in our love and regard for one another, and as a result, doing something as simple as singing a concert of songs from "The Lion King" and "Mary Poppins" takes on a deeper meaning.

If you too are joined in the koinonia, you know what I mean. If you are not, and if the mystical part of what I have said has missed you, understand that I am not trying to get you to go join a church so much as I am trying to get you to understand why there are some of us who are so "churchy." There are some very real reasons we spend so much time and energy and money and commitment on this thing called church.

Oh, yeah, I would love for you to be a part of a church, but it won't mean nearly the same thing to you if you have not first found a relationship with Christ, for the koinonia necessarily involves His involvement. Otherwise, a church is just another social club.

I am pretty unimpressed with the prosperity gospel. I don't believe that finding Jesus will make you rich or healthier or a better cook. I think the egocentrism of prioritizing your "best life now" is antithetical to the New Testament.

But there is no doubt that the life of the koinonia, fellowshiping with Jesus and with those who are fellowshiping with Jesus, is worthwhile, even advantageous. It is what drives me. I recommend it.

3 comments:

bdb-law said...

Lynn, I think I am going to enjoy following this blog, as I am pretty "churchy" myself, albeit in the tradition of the Episcopal Church. I have been confirmed for the past decade or so. I agree whole-heartedly with the idea that the "church" (a subject that could be discussed at some length) is the body of Christ here on earth, and is the mechanism by which God's will is fulfilled through His followers.

Charlie Johnson said...

Thoughts from a committed churchman about the authentic nature of Christian community. Beautifully expressed, Lyn.

Myrl Luper said...

Lyn, this is my first time to read your blog---but will not be the last. I forwarded the Koinonia one to a friend who has been looking for words to express her similar feelings about Lake Shore BC. (Ask me about it when I see you.) It is difficult for me to imagine what life would be like without church families (yes, I claim more than one church!). Thanks, keep up the good work.